Thunderbirds forward Sukhman Sandhu signs his first pro contract with Langley’s Fraser Valley Bandits

UBC basketball’s Sukhman Sandhu joins local Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) team the Fraser Valley Bandits for the 2022 summer season.

The Fraser Valley Bandits drafted fifth-year forward Sandhu in late April as the fourth pick in the second round of the 2022 CEBL U Sports Draft after completing his first season with the Thunderbirds.

Although this moment was one to treasure, Sandhu laughed and said, “I didn’t tell my family right away, and they were a bit mad I didn’t tell them first.” He wanted to ensure everything was finalized before sharing the news.

Playing locally at the professional level means a lot to Sandhu. Just three years ago, this would not have been possible. The CEBL is a new league that held its inaugural season in 2019.

Sandhu said it was an honour “to have this league and see how it has grown in a short amount of time and how they persevered and adjusted during [COVID-19]. It’s exciting to get that start and [have] this be my first team to have all these experiences to learn from.”

Along with professional development, Sandhu has noticed massive growth in the basketball community across the Lower Mainland over the past decade. “The high school BC boys’ provincials have had big turnouts, and the Langley Event Centre was packed this year which was something I hadn’t seen before during my time playing,” he said.

How it all started

At first, basketball was just an activity Sandhu took up to spend time with his brother and friends.

“I began playing when I was six years old, but even then, I was just rebounding the ball for my brother,” he said.

It was not until grade 10 that Sandhu began seriously considering the sport. He said that for a long time, he “wasn’t sure if there would be serious opportunities that would come from playing.”

With continuous hours of practice came more opportunities for Sandhu. His motivation and persistence allowed him to transition his game to play at the post-secondary level with the University of Fraser Valley (UFV).

At UFV, Sandhu said he was greatly supported by his coach Adam Friesen and his two teammates and best friends, Sukhjot Bains and Parm Bains. Sandhu had been playing alongside the pair since high school, and they continuously pushed him to achieve his goals.

Sandhu treasured his time at UFV but was honoured to transfer to UBC in 2021.

“Playing at a program that is well known across Canada and known for excellence and reaching nationals and playing for Kevin Hanson, who is one of the most [decorated] coaches in Canada West history, provided me with a lot of tools to improve and mature as a player,” he said.

In the 2021/22 season, Sandhu averaged 16.4 points per game while playing around 23 minutes a night.

What the future holds

Sandhu will be training with the Bandits over the summer and hopes to apply these new skills to his play at UBC next season.

Sandhu said Bandits head coach Mike Taylor has a lot of experience and knowledge, and said he’s looking forward to learning from other veterans at the Bandits who can advise on small details of the game.

He’s looking for the T-Birds to have a great regular season and make some noise at Nationals.

“I also hope to have a good year individually and from there secure a pro contract and have a long career.”