ABBOTSFORD — The player B.C. high school coaches voted the No. 1 senior talent in the province following the 2013-14 season has led a nomadic existence the past four years within the delivery system of U.S. college basketball.
On Wednesday, however, Sukhjot Bains was happy to say he was coming home to stay for the remainder of his university basketball career.
The 6-foot-6 wing, who in March of 2014 led Surrey’s Tamanawis Wildcats to the B.C. senior boys Quad A championship semifinals where it lost in an epic 67-64 decision to Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs, announced that he had transferred from NCAA Div. 1 Wisconsin-Green Bay to play his final two seasons in Abbotsford with the Fraser Valley Cascades.
Immediately eligible, Bains caps the incoming class of UFV recruits with the one ingredient head coach Adam Friesen has most sought over the off-season: Experience.
Bains, after averaging 28.5 points and 13.6 rebounds over his senior year of high school, spent 2014-15 at New Jersey’s Peddie Prep, then two more seasons (2015-16, 2016-17) at Wyoming juco Northwest College.
This past season, he spent a solid season with Wisconsin-Green Bay yet never fully found the natural fit he had hoped to find there.
All of that has led him home, with the chance to take a huge stake in the team’s culture as a leader and go-to player.
“That is what I am trying to bring,” said Bains, who had a number of offers but ultimately chose between UFV and the Calgary Dinos. “At Tammy, we had a very successful season in my senior year and I am pretty sure I can help bring leadership to this squad. They (UFV) had a tough (2017-18) season (5-15) and now they are ready to bounce back, and I want to help them make that impact.”
Friesen had no fifth-year players last season on a roster filled with first- and second-year players.
It goes without saying that the coach welcomes Bains with open arms.
“He’s a mature player who can step in right away and be a leader of the group,” said Friesen, who also welcomes talented high school freshmen Vlad Mihaila of Semiahmoo and Dhivaan Bhogal of W.J. Mouat into the Cascades’ fold. “Sukhjot knows what to expect, what the ups-and-downs of a season are all about, and as a veteran, he is a guy who can help our younger players grow and mature.”
And Bains, who was out on his own the past four seasons, doesn’t discount for a second the impact that family had in his decision to return home.
He gets to play with his brother Navjot, three years his senior and a now in his fifth-and-final campaign with the Cascades.
“It was a pretty big reason why I chose to come to UFV,” said Bains of his brother. “The two of us have always played pick-up ball together and we do pretty well. We have a chemistry together and it will be great to play with him.”
Navjot Bains, also 6-6, played at Douglas College before transferring to UFV. He suffered a season-ending knee injury on just the third day of the team’s training camp last season and instantly became an injury red-shirt.
Why did Bains elect to leave Wisconsin-Green Bay after just one season, despite the fact he played a healthy 15.7 minutes per game as a junior, counting a start among his 33 appearances, while averaging 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game?
“It wasn’t about a lack of playing time,” Bains said. “They gave me an opportunity to play.”
In the end, however, it was Bains’ inability to find his fit positionally within the program that led him to seek a transfer.
Stressing that he was grateful to the Wisconsin-Green Bay program for giving him a chance to play NCAA Div. 1 basketball, Bains admits he was nonetheless out of his comfort zone playing in the paint.
“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve played on the wing,” he continued of the position where Friesen expects to utilize him this coming season. “I learned a lot. I became a better player, and mentally, it changed me to a different mindset. Now I’m ready to show this upcoming season that I can still dominate.”
And in the process, he’s not going to turn down any home-cooked meals.
“I am going to be staying at home (in Surrey),” Bains said, laughing that he’ll likely move back into the family home and even sleep in his old bedroom. “I’ll drive in with my brother. It’s about 45 minutes. After four years, it’s good to be back home.”
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