ABBOTSFORD — He had no team to belong to, and he was running out of dreams to chase.
Two years ago, for the first time since he’d given himself to a life in basketball, Parm Bains was a student, and not a student-athlete.
And he didn’t need those accounting courses he was taking at New Westminster’s Douglas College back in the 2016-17 school year to realize that nothing was adding up in his quest to play point guard at a U Sports’ school.
“I had taken the whole year off and focused on school, but I still played basketball every day just because I loved it,” the former Tamanawis Wildcats point guard explained. “But at that time, I was not sure if my post-secondary career was ever going to continue again.”
Of course with one push of history’s handy fast-forward button, we can arrive at Bains’ present-day reality where he is not only doing what he had set out to accomplish as a U Sports point guard, he’s doing it for a Fraser Valley Cascades team which at the winter break sits tied for third place in the Canada West behind only Calgary and UBC, with an 8-4 record.
Oh, and how about the fact that the player no U Sports program in the country was interested in coming out of high school took his game out of mothballs after almost two years of live-game inactivity, and finds himself leading his team in scoring at 15.2 ppg?
This is the story of a walk-on wanderer whose career has suddenly hit a sprint, one which only stops so that he might unfurl the sweetest of pull-up jumpers.
PARDON ME, I’M PARM!
Parm Bains is listed at 5-foot-10 on the Fraser Valley roster.
While everything else about his game has been the truth this season, that number might be a little fictitious.
“I always bug him that he’s short,” jokes Cascades head coach Adam Friesen who nonetheless, wasn’t about the confirm or deny Bains’ listed height. “Once you’re a certain height, you’re just short.”
And while it might seem like a small point, it’s probably fair to say that because of his height (likely closer to 5-foot-8) as a high school senior at Tamanawis, Bains was overshadowed by a pair of his teammates, both of whom are now his teammates at Fraser Valley.
“I think out of high school, some of the CIS schools thought he might have been too small and they were more fixated on Sukhjot (Bains) and Sukhman (Sandhu),” explains Tamanawis head coach and former UFV player Mike McKay of the 6-foot-7 Sukhjot Bains (no relation) and the 6-foot-10 Sandhu. “But Parm was skilled and quick enough to be on a U Sports roster right out of high school. He was just overlooked.”
Yet if Parm Bains felt a little stung by the fact that not a single U Sports school in the country wanted him, he refused to feel sorry for himself.
Instead he got himself a tryout at CCAA Douglas College and played there in 2014-15. The next season he played in North Vancouver for the Capilano Blues.
While both offer an excellent basketball environment, Bains said it was a personal decision to step away from the game for the 2016-17 season, one in which he returned to his studies at Douglas College, and pondered what his next step might be.
That’s when Navjot Bains, the Cascades’ 5th-year senior forward and the brother of Sukhjot, called him to say that he thought he could help the team, and that he should get in touch with head coach Friesen.
“I talked to Adam and he told me he already had 12 spots filled, and he knew nothing about me,” Parm Bains said. “But he was very nice.He told me I could red-shirt with no promises. We would just see where it would go.”
Yet Bains’ time as an understudy was somewhat short-lived.
When one of the Cascades’ active players decided to leave the team, a spot opened up, and by the time all of the paperwork had been completed, Bains suddenly found himself on a road swing in Lethbridge for the 11th game of the conference season on Dec. 1, compete with an actual jersey to wear and an actual spot on the bench with the rest of the active players.
Friesen even tapped him on the shoulder and he saw his first game action in almost two full years that night in a 98-87 Cascades’ loss.
“It was three minutes in garbage time but I played well, even though I was surprised to get them,” said Bains who made a lay-up, hit a free throw, made a steal and dished an assist, in the process earning himself 20 minutes the next night, and effectively making his U Sports’ dream come true.
The very next weekend, in a Saturday loss at Trinity Western, Bains exploded with 33 points in 33 minutes, hitting seven triples with his smooth, Curry-like step-back move.
This season, he’s added even more consistency to his game, reaching double-figures in 10 of the team’s 12 conference games while scoring nine points in each of the other two.
His season-high 27 points last Saturday carried the Cascades into the winter break tied with Winnipeg for third place in the Canada West after UFV was picked to finish 13th out of 17 teams in the conference’s preseason coaches poll.
“I could tell he was a hard worker and that he played with a lot of pride,” Friesen says,”but I never saw what he is doing now at all, so it’s been a nice surprise.”
A MODERN DAY MICROWAVE
To put a cherry on top of it all, Parm Bains has brought all of his drive and all of his gifts to the team in an ego-less package.
After earning the starting job at point guard, and having his name called out in the pre-game introductions for the first five games of the Canada West season, Bains went to Friesen and told him he would rather come off the bench.
“I have been coming off the bench my whole post-secondary career,” says Bains, who loves to study developing tendencies, like the ways in which his opposition is guarding the pick-and-roll, before subbing into the fray, “so it’s something I’ve learned and I’ve ben able to come in and score right away.”
At Tamanawis, Bains says his job was to attack and then distribute. At UFV, Friesen has simplified the mission.
“He’s comfortable in his role and he still tends to play starter’s minutes,” Friesen explains. “And he’s a scorer. We always tell him not to be John Stockton, not a pass-first point guard, so he plays aggressively and looks for his shot. That’s when he’s at his best.”
Through it all, efficiency has been a hallmark of his 2018-19 campaign thus far.
Besides leading the team at 15.2 ppg (just head of Mark Johnson’s 14.4 ppg and Sukhjot Bains’ 11.6 ppg), Bains is tied for ninth in the conference in assists at 3.9 per game while shooting .442 from the field, and .376 from beyond the arc on 7.75 attempts per game. He’s also sixth in Canada West in made threes at almost three per game.
“We haven’t quite started calling him ‘The Microwave’ just yet,” laughs Friesen of the late 1980s-vintage Detroit Pistons’ guard Vinny Johnson who set the modern template for coming in and hitting shots cold off the bench.
Still, this is the story of a player, who for survival’s sake, has had to heat up quickly and perform when called upon.
“He has always been an extremely hard worker and a good shooter, but has made himself into a great player by the amount of time he has spent in the gym over the past few years,” McKay says proudly.
Being reunited with Sandhu and Sukhjot Bains, his two Tamanawis teammates, has just made his unexpected renaissance even more surreal.
“No question, those are my two best friends since Grade 9,” says Bains, who will lead the Cascades back into conference play with a huge pair of games Jan. 4-5 against the Brandon Bobcats at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre. “It definitely has been made more comfortable when you get the chance to play with people you genuinely love.”
But while fully aware that he would likely not be playing had it not been for the spot that opened up on the roster last season, Bains stands proudly and confidently about the kind of player he always knew he was, even when no one else wanted him.
“Honestly, I have always had big goals for myself,” he begins. “I am not surprised by any of this. But thinking it is one thing, and doing it is another. So yeah, this is exactly what I’ve always wanted, and it feels great to be here.”
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