Every once in a while, I like to pay a little mention to Indian-origin basketball players who are having or have had some measure of success in other parts of the world. They might not be technically 'Indian' if they don't hold the passport, but what's more important to show from their examples is that the shoddy myth that: 'Indian bodies aren't athletic enough for basketball' is a blatant lie. It's all about nurture: provide a basketball player with the right diet, conditioning, competitive environment, and training facilities, and just watch him or her blossom!
Last week, American Inderbir Gill, who born and brought up in India, was named the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) Player of the Year. Gill is a three-time CCAA All Canadian, former CCAA Men’s Championship MVP and was named 2010’s CCAA Athlete of the Year Across All Sports.
Gill, who attends the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George (Canada) and plays for their squad, the Timberwolves (not to be confused with the NBA team in Minnesota!), was second in scoring in the British Columbia Colleges' Athletic Association (BCCAA) this season and third in assists. The six foot guard led his team to a 22-4 record.
According to a feature by Wally Donaldson of Oshawa Express, Gill lived in India till he was 12 years old before his parents moved to the US. Hailing from the village of Kharar Acharwal in Punjab, Gill's family immigrated to the US in 1998. They have since settled in Spokane in Washington.
I found an interesting snipped about him from The Tribune newspaper in 2007, when Gill had briefly returned to this village
“Before I immigrated to the US in 1998, I had never played basketball. I started playing the game in the summer of 1998 with Indian friends. Then in 2000, we moved to Spokane in Washington State, where I was selected to play for my high school team and was one of their main players in our league."
Inderbir comes from a family of sportspersons. His father, Parminder Singh, led Punjabi University football team in early 70s, while his mother, Sital Kaur, played basketball for Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar.
Inderbir feels that it is the training which makes the difference. “I am considered one of the quickest and agile player. This is why I am considered one of the best in assists and steals in my team.”
“I had an opportunity to play against the only player of Indian origin who has represented Canada in international basketball events,” he claims.
And here's more about from Donaldson's recent article:
Inderbir Gill is completing his fifth and final year in financing at the University of Northern British Columbia in St. George.
Just for the record, he is quick to point out, the native of Spokane Washington has no intentions of spending his working days behind a desk.
Not when he still has the talent to move a basketball swiftly up court and in harmony with Raptors’ Jose Calderon, possess the peripheral vision to dish the ball off to an open man.
“I was the main facilitator this year by getting the guys the ball for the easy shots,” said Gill, whose team fell far short of expectations last weekend at Durham College. “Our defence had been a concern all year because we didn’t play a full 40 minutes every game.
Gill is keeping his options open as to where he hopes to play professionally in the not-too-distant future. Europe is high on the list, he notes, although anywhere he can continue to hone his skills is a bonus.
“I’ve talked to people here and there,” he says with a huge grin, “but now that this season is over, I will step it up a bit and see what happens. I love this game and if I can continue to play, it will be the best thing in my life.”
“I love the competitive nature of basketball. Whenever I have free time, I go out and shoot some hoops. I had a lot of fun here (UNBC) and my rewards were just a reflection of how the team played.”
A solid fan of Steve Nash and Lebron James, Gill likes to fashion is talents on the style of play of these elite NBA players.
Now isn't that awesome? A six-foot tall Punjabi kid, who hadn't even played basketball till his teens, finding the right environment to becoming a dominating player? Good stuff Inderbir - hopefully he can make a name for himself professionally abroad.
There are several other NRIs like him who have enjoyed successful basketball careers around the world - and I will be posting a Q&A with one such star in the near future...