OTTAWA — In the first game of the House-Laughton pre-season tournament hosted by Carleton, Queen’s starting guard Sukhpreet Singh scored a team-high 10 points in the lopsided 98-49 loss to the CIS powerhouse Ravens.
Singh performed effectively, played defence, hit the only three-pointer he took, and played a team-high 30 minutes despite the tough competition.
With the way the 6-2 Toronto native carried himself both on and off the court, you wouldn’t know he was just a freshman.
“He played like a typical rookie who has a huge upside and still has a lot of things to learn,” said Queen’s head coach Stephan Barrie
“He shows flashes of brilliance and he’s getting better every day and there’s a lot of things that remind you he’s still in first year.”
Singh enters a Queen’s basketball program in flux. Last season, Barrie and his assistants inherited a program that wasn’t built to their style of play and the Gaels ended up going 2-20 in OUA league play.
This season Queen’s has nine new players, recruited to build the program for future success, with plenty of development and opportunity along the way for the new young core.
“Coming into Queen’s we have a great opportunity for minutes,” said Singh. “The minutes were available and I’m just trying to take advantage of it, doing whatever coach needs us to do and really just play within the system.”
Back in Grade 11, Singh was able to help Martingrove high school’s senior team win the OFSAA AAA title his first year on the team, stepping in during a crucial playoff situation when the starters seemed out of gas, according to his high school coach Shawn Gray.
This season at Queen’s, Singh will have a similar opportunity to make a difference immediately on a young squad looking for leadership.
“Oh, for sure he’ll be able to contribute right away [at Queen’s],” said Gray.
“He’s very deceptively strong and very deceptive at his game. He has a game that you really can’t track. He’s so wiry as a player so he’ll be fine, and his confidence is high.”
Singh displays that confidence when he talks, and he says he wants to bring the same brand of winning basketball from high school to the University level.
To do so, he’ll have to adapt to a whole new system and whole new style of play.
“Mentally and physically it’s a completely different game,” said Singh.
“It’s a lot more physical on the boards, on the court, everything’s more physical so we’ve really got to be stronger with the ball and we’ve got to be smarter. Everyone out here can play at this level, it’s completely different from high school.”
While Singh adapts to the game, he’s also adapting to new positioning on the court.
Before this year, Singh was used to dominating the ball and being a scoring threat, passing when he was double teamed or kicking the ball out to shooters as he pulled the defence with him when driving to the basket.
He’s always been a good passer and those techniques will assist him as he tries to transition to the role of a full-time point guard.
“Here, realistically, we have enough pieces around him that he’s got to become a pass-first guy mentally, and that’s not something that happens overnight,” said Barrie.
Singh understands what the team needs and is adapting to his new role with aplomb.
“I’ve really changed my mentality to more assists-first and score second, so trying to transition from a shooting guard combo to more of a true point guard,” said Singh.
Gray can also see the transition to the point position as a natural progression of Singh’s game.
“He’ll be fine,” said Gray. “If the coach over [at Queen’s] wants him to be a point guard, he can do the job and do a good job of it too. It’s not new territory for him to be a point guard.”
As Singh adjusts to the new school, position, style of play, and teammates, he’ll flourish.
In fact, he’s doing it already.
In the final game of the House-Laughton tournament, a win over Laval, Singh recorded six assists, an overall tournament high.