Students at Seaquam Secondary got quite the thrill last week when Satnam Singh, the first Indian-born player to be drafted into the NBA, visited them over lunch break.
The 21-year-old Dallas Mavericks pick, who currently plays for the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League, spoke to students on the importance of hard work, family and clean living before taking to the court for a friendly skills competition against Seahawks players and coaches.
“Basically what we’re doing is connecting students from around the world so we can collaborate on different issues and so we can personalise the issues that we face in society today,” Sachal said.
Sachal started Break the Divide only a few months ago, inspired by in part by a trip he took to the Arctic last summer with Students on Ice.
The two-week trip, from July 21 to Aug. 5, was a ship and land-based journey exploring Canada’s eastern Arctic and Western Greenland where the team engaged in environmental research, listened to elders and visited remote communities.
The trip helped lay the foundation for what would become Break the Divide.
“So far, we’ve connected with the community of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. We’ve done video calls with them so students are understanding what it’s like living in this different place and so we’re learning about the issues they face,” Sachal said.
“So, with Satnam Singh coming from a small village in India, it was really about getting him to talk to students about what he had to go through to get here today, and how hard work can really pay off.”
Singh was born in Ballo Ke, a village of about 800 people in the Barnala district of Punjab. When he was nine, he left home to attend the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, and by the time he was 14 he was living and attending school in the United States.
“When I came here, no English, zero. I can’t speak English, nothing, I can’t understand, I can’t do anything,” Singh told the students. “My mom told me, ‘Satnam, stay five years away from your family and keep hard working, you will achieve things. Basketball, study and sleep. That’s it, nothing more than that.’”
His hard work was rewarded in 2015 when he selected 52nd overall by the Mavericks, although his journey to the NBA hasn’t been without its challenges. Singh has endured several injuries, leading to surgeries on his back, elbow and knee. And his dedication to better himself both on and off the court has meant sacrificing spending time with parents and siblings.
“Maybe I’ll stay one week with my family every year. And the last three years, I never went back home. Why? Because of my basketball,” Singh said. “I was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks … I’m the first Indian-born player and I feel proud of myself but not for me, for my mom and dad. If they gave me something good-wise … that’s why I’m here.
“If your families give you something good, you have to take it. If you have any opportunity, in college, or maybe in high school, or maybe in a job or something, whatever you have, anything, take it.”
And that was the message Singh was there to convey to the students at Seaquam, that opportunities are not be wasted.
“When I came [to the United States]…I figured out that a lot of people have kids going a bad way, so I’m trying to give them a straight way: stay away from drugs, stay away from everything like that and keep coming out for the sports,” Singh told the Reporter.
“You can play ball, play hockey, play any game. The game is very important for every kid, so that’s why I came here, to tell everyone where I came from, how I’ve worked hard and why I’m here for you.”
Singh said he was impressed by what he saw during his time in North Delta, and that the students and staff at Seaquam seem to be on the right track.
“I played with the kids and they did a really good job. I’m proud of everyone from this school. They have good basketball coaches, a gym, they play ball and have a team that’s amazing,” Singh said following the event.
“So I’ll just say to you God bless this school, keep hard working, keep doing whatever they’re doing, and make sure they teach the kids to stay away from bad people, stay away from drugs, stay away from alcohol and stuff, [and] keep focused on sports and their families.”
– with files from Amy Reid