Sukhjot Bains is coming home to play basketball.
OK, not exactly “home,” but close enough for the former standout at Tamanawis Secondary in Surrey.
Bains has signed to play for the University of Fraser Valley Cascades next season, after a four-year tour of the U.S. that included a stop in 2017 with the Phoenix at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The six-foot-six guard is considered the first former NCAA Division 1 player to sign with UFV, to which he’ll commute from his family home in North Delta.
“It’s a 45-minute drive, not bad,” he told the Now-Leader in a phone interview.
Bains, 22, has two seasons of eligibility remaining, and he’ll get to play on the Cascades with his older brother Navjot Bains, a veteran centre who enters his fifth and final year of Canada West eligibility.
“He’s got one year left, so it works out perfectly,” the younger Bains said. “He was supposed to finish this year, but unfortunately he tore his ACL, so he couldn’t play this year, but he’s recovering really well and I’ll be able to play a year with him.
“We are pretty close,” Bains added, “even though I haven’t seen him much over the past four years, but every decision I have made, he’s always been a part of those, helped guide me. It’s pretty exciting, because I’ve never played with him before. I had an opportunity to play with him in high school, but the age difference was quite a bit of a problem. So I’m looking forward to it now, and we’ll see what we can do.”
Also in Abbotsford, Bains will get to play alongside two old buddies, fellow 2014 Tammy grads Sukhman Sandhu and Parmvir Bains (no relation).
After his all-star time at Tamanawis in 2014, when he led the Wildcats to a 4A Final Four appearance, Bains spent a post-grad season at Peddie Prep in New Jersey, followed by two seasons at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. From there, he went to Wisconsin to fulfill his dream of playing NCAA Division 1 basketball.
• RELATED STORY: Sukhjot Bains commits to Green Bay Phoenix, from 2017.
In Green Bay last season, Bains averaged 15.7 minutes along with 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, and scored a season-high 16 points in the Phoenix’s 95-83 win over Detroit-Mercy Titans on Dec. 28.
GREEN BAY WINS!— Green Bay Basketball (@gbphoenixmbb) December 7, 2017
Sukhjot Bains scores the runner in the lane and we get the stop on the other end!
FINAL: Green Bay 59, EIU 57 pic.twitter.com/cpw7Z735f5
“Graduating from high school, my goal was to play Division 1, and I accomplished it,” Bains said. “It took longer than usual and I took a different path to get there, not a traditional one, but all the stops that I had, in New Jersey and Wyoming, I think it really developed me as a person and also as a player. It really helped my confidence, my perseverance, and turned me pretty much into a man, I would say. I wouldn’t really trade those experiences for anything, and now it’s just time to come back and play in Canada.”
Bains will pursue a General Studies major with a business minor at UFV, with an eye on an accounting career once his basketball-playing days are done. Before that, however, he’d like to follow his Cascades career playing pro basketball somewhere.
Having Bains at UFV “is a big signing,” head coach Adam Friesen enthused.
“Our goal every year is to recruit the best players in the Fraser Valley, and Sukhjot obviously represents that. I think he’s going to have an impact in all areas of the game. Offensively, he’s going to be a weapon that we haven’t had every year. Teams are going to have to game-plan for him, and he’s going to make everyone’s life around him easier.”
In terms of chemistry with the Cascades, Bains know exactly how his brother and longtime pals play.
“That was really big for me to come here,” he stated in a release. “I had a decent amount of schools contacting me, but at the end of the day, I chose UFV for team chemistry and the freedom to play my game.”
• Meanwhile, the UFV men’s soccer program has rounded out its 2018 recruiting class, signing a pair of Surrey high schoolers and one transfer student.
Midfielder Rajan Bains joins the Cascades after spending one year redshirting with the UBC Thunderbirds while defender Sahib Sidhu and forward Mikael Mainella begin their post-secondary careers at UFV.
The trio brings head coach Tom Lowndes’s 2018 recruiting haul to 11 players, joining two previously announced groups of signees.
Bains (Surrey) is a five-foot-11 midfielder who won five provincial championships and a national title with Surrey United, and was part of Team B.C. for the 2017 Canada Summer Games. After graduating from North Surrey Secondary last year, he spent the 2017-18 season with the UBC Thunderbirds.
“Rajan is a top recruit, and we were actively recruiting him before he went to UBC,” Lowndes said. “He’s a top-class midfielder with a great range of passing and fantastic vision, and he’s a defensive pillar. We’re really happy he’s joining us.”
Sidhu (Surrey) is a six-foot-three centre back who enjoyed an outstanding youth soccer career, highlighted by a 2014 campaign which saw him notch a goal and an assist in the provincial final to help his Surrey United side earn a trip to the national championships, where they finished second. He also helped his club squad to second-place provincial finishes in 2016 and 2017.
On the high school side, Sidhu captained his Fleetwood Park Dragons to top-10 provincial finishes each of the past two seasons. He also helped Fleetwood Park’s junior boys basketball team to a provincial championship berth in 2014, and won multiple team MVP and leadership awards at school.
“He’s a big, powerful, strong defender,” Lowndes said of Sidhu. “He leads the backline very well, he’s dominant through the air, and can start attacks from the back. Physically, I think he’s ready to come in and compete for playing time right away. I’m excited to see how he adjusts to U SPORTS soccer.”
Mikael Mainella (Surrey) is a six-foot-one forward who was the Metro U-18 player of the year in 2017-18, and won a B.C. Soccer Premier League title during his youth soccer days with Surrey United.
Mainella’s elite athleticism is underscored by the fact he also excelled in track and field. He won a B.C. Junior Development award for track and field three years in a row and competed in the 200-metre hurdles at the 2014 BC Summer Games.
“Mikael is going to give us some much-needed depth in our forwards,” Lowndes said. “He’s a big strong lad who holds the ball up really well, gets to good areas and looks to finish. We’re happy to have him come in and challenge our forwards for some playing time.”
with file from Eric Welsh/Black Press Media