Kiski brothers each stand taller than 7 foot
Sim Bhullar stood surrounded by a group of teenage girls, posing and smiling as digital cameras flashed. His younger brother Tanveer had a similar photo shoot just a few feet away, where a middle-aged man shook his hand and called him "sir."
The brothers are 16 and 14.
They're also 7-foot-4 and 7-foot-2.
That extraordinary height has earned the Kiski School basketball players unavoidable attention wherever their prep school team has played this season, including last week's game at Indiana Area.
"Look at this, they're like celebrities," said Kiski School coach Daryn Freedman, pointing toward the fans who were waiting for a postgame photo-op with Sim, a sophomore, and Tanveer, a freshman. "This happens everywhere we go."
Even in Chicago, where they were earlier this month for a prep school tournament. The Bhullars have grown accustomed to the attention, which Sim said intensified two years ago when he was already 6-10.
"Everywhere I go, people follow me," said Sim Bhullar, the older and taller brother. "They always ask me for pictures."
Said Tanveer Bhullar: "I'm used to it by now. It happens every game."
The brothers from Toronto enrolled at the private Saltsburg academy before this school year, looking for a place where they could develop their basketball skills with hopes of reaching the NBA. Their parents — who are 6-3 and 5-11 — are from India. They stayed behind in Canada.
"We noticed that Canada is all about hockey, and America is more about basketball," Tanveer Bhullar said. "So, we wanted to come to a prep school here."
The Kiski School, which has an all-male enrollment, educates teenagers in grades nine through 12, but also allows post-graduate students to enroll for a fifth year of high school. The basketball team isn't sanctioned by the WPIAL or PIAA, but at times plays schools from those organizations. When it does, the fifth-year seniors don't play.
The team's schedule has a mix of traditional high schools, prep schools, college junior varsities and several national tournaments.
At 6:30 p.m. today, Kiski School plays host to Linsly School from Wheeling, W.Va. At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Kiski School plays Career Connections, a charter school in Lawrenceville.
The Bhullar brothers each average double figures in scoring. Sim Bhullar starts at center with Tanveer as his replacement, though the two are sometimes used together. Both are athletic and skilled, with Tanveer patterning his game after San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan.
"I want to make it to the NBA," Tanveer said. "That's the final goal."
Freedman said the players have received interest from "high, high major" college programs, but he refused to specifically identify any schools.
"Everyone thinks they are projects, but they're not," said Freedman, a former assistant with John Calipari at UMass and Memphis, who also assisted Ron Everhart at Duquesne. "They understand the game. They know how to play.
"When you first see them, you don't think they're going to be able to pass the ball and do the things they do. They both have great hands, and they can get up and down the floor."
The oohs and aahs begin when the brothers enter the gymnasium, each usually having to duck to fit through doorways. But those sounds turned to groans from the Indiana crowd when Freedman put Sim, Tanveer and 6-foot-9 teammate Stefan Jankovic into the game at the same time.
"When we put the three big guys in together, they all went crazy," Freedman said, with a laugh.
Said Tanveer: "It's great because they don't know who to guard."
This is the first season at The Kiski School for Freedman, who ran a prep school program in Massachusetts earlier this decade and currently operates an AAU program. He said he's never seen anything quite like the attention surrounding these two 7-footers.
Before leaving Indiana, they each posed with a couple dozen fans.
"They're great with the attention," Freedman said. "They don't let it get to their heads."