Mumbai: Indian-origin cager Sim Bhullar, who joined Raptors 905 in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Development League, said on Friday that keeping pace with the fast-paced matches in the United States-based competition is his biggest challenge.
The 22-year-old is the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA. Bhullar, who stands seven-foot-five and weighs 163 kilograms, spent the season with the Sacramento Kings and their Reno Bighorns farm team in the NBA D-league.
Last season, the Toronto-born centre averaged 10.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in 39 games with Reno.
In the NBA D-League game on Friday, he will face Texas Legends' Satnam Singh Bhamara, who created history by becoming the first Indian to get drafted into the NBA.
"The challenging part for me was the speed of NBA, as it is totally different. It's about keeping with the pace of the game and being able to do it for long stretches is the biggest thing for me to work hard on. I am trying to do it for last couple of years and keep the pace going and hold on to it is a challenge," Bhullar told reporters via conference call from Texas on Friday.
Bhullar is a native of Brampton, Ontario, which is in the greater Toronto area. This will be the Raptors 905's first season in the D-League and they play most of their home games in Mississauga, Ontario.
Bhullar was also a part of the Canadian team that bagged the silver medal at the Pan American Games earlier this year.
Speaking on his connection with India and the fans, the Toronto-born said, "The support from the Indian fans has been great both here and from back in India as well. I am very thankful to see the support and them cheering me to do well in NBA. It is huge for basketball in India, a couple of players playing in NBA and at a high level is good for growth of the sport in the country."
Bhullar wants youngsters back in India to see him and Satnam as an example and take up the sport and make it a success in the country as well.
"Last couple of years kids have started playing the game more and more. It is definitely going on in the right direction. I hope in years to come more young players comes up from India and it will be a dream come true for the country and the sport," he said.
"All the coaches have told us to work on our fitness and concentrate on training. Hope we can show it to India that we are working hard and hopefully have a great game," Bhullar added.
When asked about what he expects on-court when he faces off with Satnam, he said, "Satnam is skilled, he is talented boy and I expect and good competition from him in the game. I am looking forward to it as it will be fun playing against him. Also being a part of history, as it is huge game."