Huntington Prep brings in 7-4 player
HUNTINGTON -- Sim Bhullar has quickly become the center of attention around town.
That's because the 7-foot-4, 350-pounder is also the center for Huntington Prep Academy's basketball team.
Bhullar, who got into town last week, is accustomed to the glances and questions he gets, so he expects it, but no one really knows what it is like to walk in his size 22 shoes. It can be a bit uncomfortable, but Bhullar said Huntington Prep teammates have helped him feel right at home with the big transition to a small town.
"After a couple days of hanging out with the guys, they just accepted us and now we are like one big family," Bhullar said. "It's kind of a small town, a quiet town, but it's all great so far. (Huntington St. Joe) is an amazing school and this is an amazing program."
Bhullar has been practicing with the Express, and his first game action is Friday when Huntington Prep travels to Columbus for a matchup with Walnut Ridge. The Express then goes on the road for a Saturday game against Second Baptist (Texas) at Scott County High in Georgetown, Ky., and a Sunday meeting with Quality Education (N.C.) at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
After practicing for about one week, Bhullar said he is eager to get on the court and show what he can do. It's also no surprise that the expectations he has set for his team are -- well, big.
"I'm really excited because we have a great group of guys and hopefully win the ESPN Rise tournament at the end of the year," Bhullar said.
Bhullar's size and ability are coveted by college coaches, and he has garnered plenty of attention around the NCAA Division I ranks. He already has his list narrowed down to four schools that he likes -- West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Syracuse.
Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said Bhullar has to get into playing shape.
"He has a ton of talent, but he has to work on some things -- mainly the ability to get up and down the floor," Fulford said. "I think he's got to lose a bunch of weight so he can be effective at the next level."
Such a scenario is easier said than done for a 350-pounder.
"It's really hard because I have to choose the right foods to eat, pick the right things to do working out and work even harder getting up and down the court," Bhullar said.
The tasks at hand could easily get a player down -- especially when they are trying to do so in an unfamiliar town -- but Bhullar said the help of a couple of former teammates has been crucial.
Negus Webster-Chan, a former AAU teammate of Bhullar's in Toronto, Canada, came to Huntington this fall to join Fulford's program. Webster-Chan is ranked No. 45 in the Class of 2012 by Scout.com.
Bhullar said that Webster-Chan told he and Stefan Jankovic -- another AAU teammate from Toronto -- that they should check into joining the Express.
Now, Fulford has a pair of rather large holiday gifts that he gets to unwrap a little bit early. The 6-10, 225-pound Jankovic is also a top-50 selection for the Class of 2012, according to Scout.
"7-4 and 6-10 -- those are pretty good size Christmas presents," Fulford said.
Bhullar said the biggest advantage to playing for Huntington Prep is getting ready for the next level, no matter what school he chooses.
Each day in practice, he will go up against Division I talent such as 6-foot-9, 230-pound athletic forward Ibrahima Djimde, who is getting attention from UCF and West Virginia among others.
"At the next level, the players aren't going to be soft and easy. Ibby just pushes you around in practice," Bhullar said. "It's hard to get post position on him, but that's what makes you better.
"I made the right choice coming here."