June 29, 2011
CCAA Player of the Year Inderbir Gill wants to play for India
If you may recall, a little over three months ago, I wrote a short post about Inderbir Gill, the Punjabi-born, US-immigrated, Canada-bound basketball player. Gill was named the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) Player of the Year, after a glittering performance as he finished his final year at the Northern University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George (Canada). He was second in scoring in the British Columbia Colleges' Athletic Association (BCCAA) this season and third in assists.
A year ago, Gill led the UNBC Timberwolves to the CCAA Men's Championship, and this year, into the Final Four. The 6-foot all point guard 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.
Wait, and did I mention? He's INDIAN!
Still, despite an interesting article about him in the Tribune four years ago, the young man who was born in Hoshiarpur in Punjab never received much media attention from his home-country, probably because until recently, media in India didn't really pay attention to our basketball heroes. Luckily, the 24-year-old young star, who had been contemplating his future after another stellar college season, found my post and decided to contact me.
His intentions? To come back to his roots and represent the Indian basketball team.
"I am a proud Indian and to represent India and to wear India’s basketball jersey would be the greatest honour for me," says Gill, "Basketball is on the rise in India and it would be great to be a part of it."
Gill's ties to India go way back - hailing from the state of Punjab which has given the country several glittering past and present basketball stars, perhaps he always had the game in his veins. Gill was born in 1987 in the city of Hoshiarpur in North Punjab. His parents did a good job in passing on the sporting gene his way: His father, Parminder Singh, led Punjabi University football team in early 70s, while his mother, Sital Kaur, played basketball for Lyallpur Khalsa College in Jalandhar.
But before he found the 'basketball gene' in his system, Gill had another dream as a child. "Like every Indian, I was a fan of cricket and wanted to be a cricket player," he says, "I did not know anything about basketball. In fact, when my mom brought a basketball home, my friends and I used the basketball to play dodgeball!"
In 1998, when he was just 11 years old, Gill's family left India and immigrated to the United States. Here, he settled in the city of Spokane in Washington State in the year 2000. It was here that he basketball journey took off: Gill used his quickness and natural instincts to master the game and was soon selected for his high school basketball team.
Gill is a quick, athletic point guard, who likes to push the ball in transition and play an up-tempo game. He describes his strengths as being an ability to penetrate to the rim and find his teammates for easy baskets. "Basketball is the ultimate team sport," says Gill, "And I get as much joy of making a nice assist as scoring myself. I take a lot of pride in my defense and feel that it is a big part of my game."
But no amount of success comes before the hurdle, and Gill had to suffer some, too. At 6 foot nothing, he was always undersized for a sport where bigger usually meant better. His other biggest obstacle, he describes, was his late start in the game. "I was 12 when my family moved to the United States. I started playing a year later and learning all the fundamentals and trying to make up for the years not playing basketball was hard to overcome."
But Gill overcame his late start, and pretty much everything else that came his way. Gill joined his high-school team, and after that headed to Everett Community College (Everett, Washington). After a low-key first season here, Gill burst into the scene in his second year, where he led the Trojans in scoring, steals, and incredibly, in rebounds, starting all 16 games of the season. By the end of the 2006-07 season Gill found himself in the Conference All Star team, and a season later, in Canada, representing UNBC.
He was immediately a perfect fit here, leading the team to their best-ever finish at the National Tournament in his first season (4th), and being named in the BCCAA first team all star. A year later came the glory - UNBC went 17-1 over the course of the season, finishing at the top of the conference table. Gill was named the CCAA Male Athlete of the Year across all sports, but saved his best for the CCAA National Tournament. Behind 32 points and 6 assists by Gill, UNBC won the CCAA National Championship, and Gill was named the tournament's MVP. A year later, the CCAA recognised him as Player of the Year.
It's an impressive resume, indeed, and a hallmark of a player who has fought the odds not only to achieve individual success and accolades, but also make a mark in the way good point guards are supposed to - by winning.
"Winning is what motivates me on the basketball court," says Gill, "I love to win and the challenge to try to win every game I play is the biggest factor of motivation for me."
Now, Gill will be hoping to bring his skills and his motivation back home, to upgrade the talent pool available in the Indian National Men's side, and on the way, guide his journey back where it began. With the right coaches surrounding the National side and the right focus in helping the game grow in India, Gill's talents will come in more than handy as India hope to climb a rung in the basketball ladder.
"One day, I would like to see myself playing at a high level professionally, represent India in basketball tournaments and be a part of the Indian basketball," he says, "I believe that with my hard work, determination, and a desire to continuously improve my game, I will eventually achieve my goals."
It's a great dream, indeed. And now, as a bonus, I would like to leave you with a short highlight clip of Inderbir Gill, from his stellar last season at UNBC. Enjoy!