Surrey-born and Brampton-raised basketball player Jasman Sangha is one step closer to achieving his dream of playing in the NBA.
Sangha recently earned a scholarship with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to play NCAA basketball.
The trailblazing moment is a culmination of his hard work, and support from his mentors and community.
In an interview with 5X Press, Sangha said that the relationship he developed with head coach Steve Lutz is what drew him to Texas A&M. He feels that Lutz shares the same vision for his future and really believes in him.
After he announced his decision to commit to Texas A&M, Sangha said praise and warm wishes quickly poured in from across Canada and India.
Community means a lot to Sangha, and he added that the community in Brampton has always stood with him in his journey.
“Surrey made me, but Brampton raised me,” he said.
While he grew up playing soccer and baseball, he said that when he was in Grade 9 the basketball coach at Louise Arbour Secondary School encouraged him to try out for the school team.
Sangha had never played organized basketball before but quickly fell in love with the sport.
In the last game of his Grade 10 season, Sangha scored around 40 points. Despite the team’s poor performance that season, this was the moment Sangha knew he could really do something with basketball.
This was when Sangha began putting in the work and finished high school with 12 Division 1 offers. However, Sangha said he did not have the grades to go straight to D-1, so he instead took the junior college route.
He now stresses the importance of focusing on school to his young supporters.
“You hear it all the time but make sure you do good in school, your parents tell you every time and you just kind of ignore them, but you really do need school.”
Sangha’s journey to where he’s gotten so far did not come without adversity or challenges.
Sangha spent one year at Pensacola State College in Florida, where he struggled on the court. His grandmother had passed away and he couldn’t be home at the time.
After that year, Sangha switched schools to Garden City Community College in Kansas. He feels that he arrived in Kansas mentally stronger and ready for a fresh start.
“When I did come to my new school, I automatically felt I had something to prove, and I had to really play my best for [my grandmother]. And not only for her but my community as well.”
He did just that -- Sangha had the best season of his career thus far, leading him to the NCAA.
Sangha’s parents, older brother, and friend, Bikramjit Gill have been his key supporters.
Gill was not only a friend but a role model to Sangha; he also grew up in Brampton and took the junior college route to Division 1.
Gill took Sangha under his wing and helped him navigate the basketball world.
Sangha’s older brother, Sukhman, has also been instrumental in Sangha’s journey, making sure he had everything he needed to reach his goals, and showing the importance of a tight community and family network to foster and support the talent and interests of our youth.
While Sangha’s been away from Brampton for some time now, he continues to feel the support from his friends, family, and community.
“I feel really comfortable being away from family because I know they are watching me and are proud of me.”
Sangha said he is proud to be a role model for youth and feels that social media has allowed him to have a wide reach.
“These last couple of weeks I've been getting a lot of DMs -- over a couple hundred kids have hit me up wanting some advice and they're wanting the same advice I wish I had when I was a kid too,” he said. “I just want to help the next generation because this is what I wanted.”
Sangha’s journey shows what the communities in Brampton and Surrey have to offer, despite the continued misrepresentation of them in the media.
He explained that he grew up with guys involved in gangs and drugs. His brother steered him away from that life to keep him on the right path.
He said that even the men he thought were cool, told him to stay away from them because they believed he could do more.
Sangha took this to heart, and now hopes to inspire the youth in both cities.
“There's a lot going on in Surrey in terms of gang violence, just like Brampton, so I feel like if I could reach kids in Surrey and Brampton, that would mean a lot to me.”
Sangha comes from two vibrant communities and is in a position to remind young brown people from there that they are more than negative headlines and narratives. And he doesn’t take this lightly.
He said that being from Surrey and Brampton, especially since high concentrations of the Indo-Canadian population reside there, is really important to him.
“Representing both of [these places] at the highest level, it just means the world to me.”
Guneet studies International Relations & Law and Society at the University of British Columbia. She is the founder of Moksha, an initiative aimed at addressing internalized racism in the South Asian community. Guneet was a Youth Fellow with Leading in Colour’s Digital Insitute of Activism and is on the UBC Current Dragon Boat team.