Surrey’s Sukhman Sandhu is excited about his basketball future with a professional team based in Langley.
Fraser Valley Bandits picked the one-time Tamanawis Secondary grad in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) U SPORTS Draft on Tuesday, April 19, with the team’s fourth pick in the second round.
Sandhu, 25, is coming off the best season of his U SPORTS career with UBC, after playing his previous three years at the University of the Fraser Valley, from 2016 to 2019.
With UBC Thunderbirds, the 6-foot-10 forward’s shooting from long range placed him first in three-point percentage in all of Canada among players with a minimum of 50 attempts. He averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds on 30-of-60 shooting from three-point territory in just 23.3 minutes played per game.
Starting this spring he’s looking to play for the Bandits at the team’s home arena, Langley Events Centre. He’s signed a rookie contract with the pro league’s westernmost club, but still needs to make the 10-man roster.
“There’ll be a training camp, and I will take every opportunity I can to improve and train,” Sandhu said Thursday (April 21).
Prior to the CEBL draft, Bandits president Dylan Kular reached out to Sandhu to see if he’d be keen to play for the Langley-based team.
“Obviously I was, and am,” Sandhu said. “Having a professional league here in Canada with a local team, I’m very excited about that and super interested. We got talking from there and here we are. There’s a lot to the league, I think. Some of these guys have careers I’m just hoping to have professionally, so having the experience there and being around those professionals will be very beneficial to myself moving forward.”
On Thursday (April 21), the Bandits announced the re-signing of fellow Surrey-raised player Adam Paige, currently with Alberta Golden Bears. The 2022 CEBL season will be Paige’s second with the Bandits, who drafted him ninth overall in 2021.
In Tuesday’s draft, the Bandits also selected 6-foot-9 forward Thomas Kennedy, from the University of Windsor, with the seventh pick in the first round.
Both Sandhu and Kennedy “have proven that they are two of Canada’s most skilled college or university players,” Kular said in a news release, “and I am looking forward to watching them develop and showcase their talents this summer.”
Kular said he sees the CEBL U SPORTS Draft as “an important opportunity for us to identify emerging players and we are committed to giving student-athletes a rewarding experience before they return to school or embark upon the next chapter of their young professional careers.”
The Bandits’ home arena is familiar to Sandhu, whose Tamanawis Wildcats placed third at the B.C. high school basketball championships played at Langley Events Centre back in 2014.
“With provincials held there, basketball is becoming just more much engrained in the community and we’re building a culture of developing talented players for a higher level,” Sandhu noted. “Hopefully local people will come out and watch and celebrate that. Me being one of the local guys on the team, it’s exciting.”
Previously based in Abbotsford, Fraser Valley Bandits open their fourth CEBL season on the road Wednesday, May 25, against Ottawa BlackJacks. Following a three-game road swing, the Bandits will make their debut at the LEC against Saskatchewan Rattlers on Saturday, June 4 at 2 p.m. For schedule and ticket info, visit thebandits.ca/tickets or call 604-866-0529.
At UBC Sandhu studied psychology, and he will shoot for a career in that field eventually.
“The mind and behaviour is something that really interests me, something I find is engaging to me,” explained the Newton resident. “I would like to tie psychology and sports together and find a career path there, just the motivation and behaviors and fears, everything that goes into that mental-preparation side is such a big part of being an athlete. That’s something I’d like to do for a career post-basketball.”