Rick Hansen point guard Josh Dhillon is ready to cap his high school career at Saturday's B.C. high school all-star weekend. (Wilson Wong, UBC athletics for VarsityLetters)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

Josh Dhillon: The Hansen Hurricane carries an inner drive and an MVP attitude

ABBOTSFORD — The greatest unscripted moments are just that: Moments which come out of nowhere and lift us to places where the view and the feeling are indescribable.

A month ago, on the greatest day of Josh Dhillon’s life, just such a moment occurred.

After spurring a late run which helped lift the Rick Hansen Hurricanes past the South Kamloops Titans and give the Abbotsford school its first-ever B.C. senior boys varsity basketball title, the team’s 5-foot-9 senior point guard suddenly found himself airborne, hoisted onto the shoulders of fans and teammates as pandemonium ensued at the Langley Events Centre.

“I think about it every night and I wish I could go back there with everyone screaming,” Dhillon said Wednesday. “It felt like high school basketball had ended on a good note, that we had accomplished what we set out to do when we started back in Grade 8.”

Rick Hansen Hurricanes’ guard and tourney MVP Josh Dhillon will never forget his ride of a lifetime. (Wilson Wong, UBC athletics for VarsityLetters.ca)

On Saturday, the MVP of those Triple-A championships will suit up for the final game of his high school career when he takes part in the B.C. Boys Basketball Association’s season-ending All-Star Weekend at Richmond’s R.C. Palmer Secondary.

And while the stakes won’t be anywhere near as high, his selection to the Triple-A team, which will play the Quad-A all-stars in a game set to tip at 7:30 p.m., is a fitting tribute to a player who is so-often talked about more for his leadership abilities than the 29-points-per-game he averaged over his senior campaign.

Another part of Dhillon’s persona which is not widely known in the basketball community?

He has won the Canadian karate championship at his weight class in three of the past four years, including last month when he battled his way to gold in Montreal, missing the Hurricanes’ first two games of the Fraser Valley championships in the process.

“It’s helped me with the physical aspect of basketball,” says Dhillon, “like diving for loose balls and helping me with my quickness. But it also helps with your mental game, with courage and with perseverance.”

Put all of those ingredients together and you get Dhillon, the perfect example of the kind of self-reliant, self-starting player/person that head coach Steve Twele has tried to produce in his program.

And ask Twele about how Dhillon scored nothing but straight A’s in that regard, and the coach is quick to reference a moment in the final minute of the ‘Canes title-game win over South Kamloops.

“I have been telling my kids for a number of years that if I have done my job, if I have taught you all you need to do in practice, then when you get to the game, you don’t need me,” relates Twele who will coach the Triple-A team on Saturday.

Easy to say, but a little tougher to live.

Except that with about a minute remaining and his team holding a three-point lead over the Titans in the B.C. title game, Twele did just that. He called a timeout to advance the ball into the front court, then walked back to his team’s huddle.

“I gave Josh the clipboard and said ‘Go for it,’” Twele says. 

To Dhillon, the moment was all about being placed in a moment of comfort.

“Coach had showed us a video of the San Antonio Spurs,” Dhillon began of a timeout in which Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich turned his team’s next move over to his players. “Tony Parker got the clipboard and he sat in the chair. At that moment, I remembered that. So I took a seat, gathered the guys around me and I drew up a play.”

Nothing groundbreaking in terms of the in-bounds schematic, except that Dhillon’s Xs and Os ended with a Grade 10 player, 6-foot-3 forward Gurkaran Mangat, getting the ball.

“I trust him, and I told him that he was going to get the ball and that he was going to score,” Dhillon said.

Mangat did both, and not too soon afterwards, the fans rushed the floor.

“He has an intensity about him that people appreciate,” said Twele of Dhillon. “He is a leader in the sense that he knows how to direct people. And what I really appreciate is his ability to bring calm to a tense situation.”

Spring break began the moment the Hurricanes won their title, and classes only resumed this week across the province.

What that has meant at Rick Hansen is a much-anticipated pep rally at the school next Tuesday in which the team’s provincial championship banner will be hoisted and appreciated by its student body.

“Our trophy is just sitting in the office,” admits Dhillon. “Every day we walk by to see it, and it gives us all a big smile. It’s a happy time for all of us right now.”

The future?

Beyond Saturday’s all-star game, Dhillon will have some big decisions to make.

He has not been flooded with collegiate basketball offers, but he is hoping that a summer spent playing on the AAU circuit with Drive Basketball will help open some eyes.

“I think with him size is probably the biggest question,” says Drive coach Pasha Bains. “But Josh has a moxy, a confidence, and a personality. He carries himself like a leader, so I hope people see that.”

Yet there is also a decision to be made regarding his other sport.

“It is a big decision,” Dhillon admits, “because karate has been announced as an Olympic sport for 2020 in Tokyo. I am still doing both. And at the end of the AAU season I will decide.”

That, like the events of last month, are as yet unscripted.

Josh Dhillon is OK with that. He’s willing to work for the chance to feel airborne once more.

“A lot of (basketball) people have told me that I am too small, but I don’t care what they say,” he explains. “I go out and I give everything I have. And I know that when I do that, no one can stop me.”

(For more on Dhillon and the ‘Canes’ B.C. title-game win, click here)

(For full rosters to Saturday’s all-star games, click here)

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