Playing in a national basketball championship is nothing new for Dharmjit Dhillon, but being the only player his age on the squad will be a new experience.
Dhillon, a 15-year-old North Kildonan resident, is the only Grade 10 player on Manitoba’s under-17 boys’ provincial team, which is headed to the Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que. The Games will serve as the de facto national championship this August.
"It felt pretty good to make the team," said the Kildonan-East Collegiate student. "Overall, my age group has great talent and we’ll have a solid team next year for sure. Lots of players my age made the final round (of tryouts) and it’s a big achievement for me."
Dhillon is a 6-foot-4 inside player for his high school team, but he believes he has the skill set to move to a small forward position at the national and university levels. His height comes from his mom, Jasprit’s, side of the family, while his basketball skills come from his 5-foot-10 father, Harjinder, who played college basketball in India.
"My dad got me into the sport," Dhillon said. "I didn’t really like it at first, but I fell in love with it in Grade 6 or 7 and started practising hard."
Dhillon’s game began to take off with the Mayhem club team in the local Rising Stars league, and has continued to improve at the junior varsity level and with the Wolves club, which has won championships for four straight years.
The Reivers were highly ranked all season and finished third in the province. Dhillon was named to the provincial tournament all-star team, and was selected as the MVP in three of the five tournaments the team entered.
Now he’s hoping a summer under the tutelage of provincial team coach Stephen Tackie, while playing against some of the best high school players in Canada, will make him an even stronger force at the varsity level.
"It will help me a lot, to play with older people and learn how to play the game," Dhillon said. "I’m just going to work hard and play my role however they ask me. If he wants me to rebound, or whatever the team needs, I want to do it."
Dhillon believes his versatility, from rebounding to inside scoring to a developing mid-range game, contributed to his making the team. He also can lean on some past national experience, from last year’s fourth-place finish with the under-15 team to his silver medal at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games.
Looking down the road, Dhillon dreams of getting a basketball scholarship, either in Canada or the U.S. He sees Canadian success stories like Torontonians Andrew Wiggins, who recently committed to the University of Kansas, and Cory Joseph, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, and wants to follow in their footsteps.
"I want to show university coaches what I bring to the table," he said. "That I deserve to play. I want to play pro, and I’m ready to work hard for that."