SURREY — On a recent Friday afternoon, as his shiny basketball courts bathed in daylight that streamed through large windows, Surinder Grewal reflected on a journey that brought a dream of his to a tucked-away business park in Newton.
On spring break, dozens of kids dribbled balls while enjoying the game that helped Grewal become a community leader, a guy who now strives to lead Surrey’s young people down a more positive path.
Grewal is king of the courts at BC Preparatory Academy, or BC Prep, a 25,000-square-foot gym that opened about six months ago on 67th Avenue, east of 152nd Street.
Prepping locals kids to play basketball at a high level is one of the goals at the gym, but it’s about much more than that.
“I really want to develop kids who are productive in society and that they give back,” Grewal said. “We’re not just trying to create the next great NBA player. If that happens, great, it’s a byproduct, but it’s not the only reason we built this facility.”
No question, it’s a pretty fancy facility, one that Grewal designed, built and financed with the help of family, friends and sponsors.
“We’re in this commercial area, kind of hidden in the corner, and nobody really knows we’re here,” the Surrey-raised Grewal said. “That’s the feeling we have here, but people pull up and they go, ‘Whoa, this is different, we didn’t expect to see this here,’ and getting that reaction is pretty cool.”
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PICTURED: Kids dribble balls on the courts during a spring-break basketball camp at BC Prep Academy. (Photo: TOM ZILLICH)
Back at Queen Elizabeth Secondary, Grewal was a MVP baller for the Royals before he graduated in 1998. He played two seasons at Kwantlen and then transfered to the University of Calgary to become a Canada West conference all-star in his senior year.
But before all that, Grewal played for a junior-high coach that made a serious difference in his life.
“My coach at William Beagle is my mentor and a close friend to this day,” Grewal said of Hardip Sidhu, who today is a counsellor at Johnston Heights Secondary. “He put so much time and effort into us, and that helped allow me to become a good basketball player and get to the university level, get a higher education. What he did for me and what I got out of basketball is why this facility exists today.”
Growing up, basketball was Grewal’s “thing” when his parents worked afternoon and evening hours.
“I was lucky,” he said. “Today, kids who don’t have something like basketball are left unsupervised when their parents are out working. That’s when trouble can start.”
About a decade ago, Grewal and university-team pal Aman Heran launched the AthElite Basketball Academy, which has grown to include popular leagues at rec centres in Surrey, North Delta and Abbotsford. Some of that action now takes place at the BC Prep facility, which also includes turf for soccer, space for volleyball and workout equipment.
Grewal talks a lot about “giving back,” and BC Prep’s “Innovate, Influence, Inspire” motto meshes well with TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More), a related foundation that will, once up and running, assist low-income and at-risk youth get involved in sports.
“I want to get kids in here with the nice, shiny floor and the NBA-style breakaway hoops, but also get them into the classroom here and teach them life skills, too,” Grewal explained. “I had that kind of help growing up, and now it’s about giving that to today’s kids, giving them the attention that they could benefit from.”
Among instructors at BC Prep is Manny Dulay, the former Tamanawis Secondary standout who recently finished his university career as a three-point threat at Abbotsford’s UFV campus.
“He’s the ideal prototype for what we’re trying to do here,” Grewal said of Dulay. “Coach them, they get good, go to university, play at a high level and come back and coach for us. That’s the plan right there.”