The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds men’s basketball team now has a Cougar among its ranks.
Williams Lake’s Harpreet Randhawa, 21, a Columneetza secondary graduate and standout player for the Cougars throughout his high school career, was recently named to the UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team roster.
The six-foot-eight forward played his last two seasons as a member of the Douglas College Royals, following a one-year stint with the Kwantlen Eagles — both members of the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST).
Making the step up to Canada West play with the T-Birds will be a challenge, Randhawa admits, but a test he’s looking forward to.
In September Randhawa said he didn’t even know he had a roster spot, and had joined the team as a practice player.
“They were short some players and some players left last minute, and I knew one of the assistant coaches, Jamie Oei, and he knew I was interested before the summer, so I had just been playing with them and practicing with them,” Randhawa explained.
“But in the summer I came back home [to Williams Lake] to work, and just recently Jamie texted me and asked if I was still interested in being a practice player.”
One thing led to another and, based off his work ethic and skill-set, he was awarded a roster spot on the team.
“It’s been a huge step in terms of physicality and how much you need to know,” he said.
“They expect you to be a smarter player now. In college and high school I mostly depended on my athleticism but at this stage everybody’s big, everybody’s fast and everybody’s strong. You’ve got to reinvent your game.”
Randhawa, despite his height, has always been comfortable playing around the perimeter — handling the ball and shooting from the outside.
Now, however, he’s having to change his game slightly to accommodate more of a secondary role.
“I’ve always been a perimeter player and now I’ve got to play the post more,” he said. “All my touches now are on the block.
“It’s the first year I’ve had to take on a secondary role so it’s a bit different for me. In high school and even college I was always the go-to guy and now I’m playing more defense, more of a team game. I’m a guy who’s fighting for minutes now so it’s all hard work from here.”
The Thunderbirds, last year’s Canada West men’s basketball champions and members of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, have just two players remaining from its 2011/12 squad.
Most noticeably absent is Doug Plumb, a second-team All-Canadian who is now playing professionally in Hungary.
“Moving him was a big piece,” he said. “There are a lot of newer guys this year so it’s going to be a change.”
Randhawa, who is studying kinesiology, made his debut for the T-Birds in their season opener last Friday against the Regina Cougars in a 78-72 loss.
But, it was a game he said helped prove he could be a factor in the league.
In just 17 minutes of play time Randhawa hauled down a team-high 11 rebounds, dropped seven points, collected three steals and had two assists.
The following night against the Brandon Bobcats Randhawa and the Thunderbirds picked up their first win in a 76-74 decision.
“Before I didn’t know if I’d be able to play in this league or not but it was definitely a confidence thing knowing I can do certain things out there,” he said.
“I’d like to prove myself and show that I fit in.”
Randhawa and the T-Birds will play their home opener tonight, Nov. 8, against the Trinity Western Spartans at the War Memorial Gym in Vancouver.