Kids Corner

Photo, third from the bottom - by Nancy Rokos.


Harmandip Singh: New Jersey's Rising Basketball Champion



Toms River, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Harmandip Singh Ghuman is instantly recognizable, yet somehow even his closest friends have trouble pronouncing his name. The Lenape Indians junior is one of the top basketball players in the Tournament of Champions.

His friends call him Herman, with an "e," not an "a."

"It doesn't really matter to me," Ghuman said. "Even teachers mispronounce it. I don't mind. People call me Herman."

At a lanky 6-foot-4, Harman would stand out anyway. Add in his full beard and turban required by his faith that makes him an inch or two taller, and he not only sticks out, he can't be missed.

Sikhism, a 500-year-old religion founded in India and dedicated to devotion and remembrance of the One God of all creation,  is the world's fifth-largest religion. Among other things, its followers keep their hair unshorn.

Men wear turbans to cover their hair. Harman color-coordinates his lightweight turban with his uniform jersey. Tonight he'll wear the road red against No. 1 St. Patrick's in a TOC semifinal - and he'll be noticed.

"I'm able to work everything out around basketball," Harman said. "I've been playing basketball since fourth grade and I've never really seen anybody else wearing a turban on the court. I guess it is an honor to be one of the only ones out there."

Lenape plays in the Olympic Conference American Division, which is known for its rugged play and fierce rivalries. There are more than a few vocal and unrelenting fan bases to play in front of, too. Harman, who's a quick, easy target for opposing fans, has the perfect makeup to combat the crowds.

"Herman's always been one of my better friends, so I never even thought about him being different," point guard Mike Celestin said. "A lot of times, you'll hear discriminating cheers. But honestly, the games when he's hearing cheers like that, he's hitting four, five 3's. It makes him angry, gives him a little spark."

Harman is a 3-point shooting specialist, who's become a defensive replacement as well. He's averaged 5.3 points in the playoffs and has 19 3-pointers on the season.

The pace of the game in Wednesday's quarterfinal win over Neptune didn't suit Harman's strengths. He played a little over two minutes in the game, but he was tabbed as a substitution after Lenape's timeout with 19.5 seconds left. The game's final shot was designed to go through Harman.

"We set up a normal play ,but we made sure that we had Harman there as an option," Lenape coach Chuck Guittar said. "They did a nice job of defending Harman and we couldn't get it to him. We trust him with the ball. At the end of the game, we know that he's either going to take the good shot or make a good decision with the ball. He was in there for the right reasons. Harman's special."

Just as his turban hides the hair he doesn't cut, the forward's stoic outward demeanour hides his true personality. There's a private side to him that outsiders can only guess at.

"Herman's hilarious," Celestin said. "When you first meet him, he's a pretty quiet kid. But when you get to know him he opens up. He keeps us all loose. He's pretty smart and has an amazing work ethic. Everybody has a big role on this team and Harman has a bigger role than most guys."

To a man, from the first player introduced to the last guy on the bench, no one could imagine this team being where it is today without their "Herman." He has appreciated every minute of it.

"It's an honor to play for a team like this," he said. "The 2004 team, as great as it was, didn't win a Tournament of Champions game. To be able to say we did something that team didn't do, that's a real honor."


[Courtesy: The Burlington County Times]

March 21, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Meeta Kaur (Union City, California, U.S.A.), March 21, 2009, 11:00 AM.

Yeah, Harmandip! Are you thinking about visiting California? Maybe we can arrange a trip - we'd like to have you come talk to the children in our kirtan group! They need to see a live athlete in the making ... your life path is exciting. Can I contact you?

2: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), March 23, 2009, 7:46 AM.

Bravo, Harman! As a parent of a teen b'ball player, I can relate to the work that goes in, the prejudices and extra elbowing that bruises you, the inner and outer conviction that you must show; but, most of all, your deep commitment to both your faith and the sport. Keep up the sense of humour; laugh, play and be good to all; even the prejudiced ones ... Blessings!

3: Amandeep Singh (India), March 23, 2009, 8:49 PM.

Hi Harman, Can I have your address? I would love to send you some nice color patkas from India.

4: Parmjit Singh (Canada), March 24, 2009, 10:20 PM.

Bravo, bro, you're an inspiration to many, and hopefully to lost sons and daughters of saint-soldiers. You have to be a winner BEFORE you step onto the court, only then are you in the game in any meaningful way.

5: test (test), March 26, 2009, 6:47 AM.


6: Maninder Kaur  (Florence, New Jersey, U.S.A.), April 13, 2009, 7:26 PM.

Hey, you're so sexy! And intelligent!

7: Punardeep (Simi Valley, California, U.S.A.), April 15, 2009, 12:12 PM.

It would be great to see Harman in the NBA (National Basketball Association league) one day.

8: Yashdeep Singh (Ahmedabad, India), April 21, 2009, 3:26 AM.

Bohat vadhiya, kaka!

9: Loveleen Kaur (Mt. Laurel), April 28, 2009, 5:15 AM.

Hey, you make me proud.

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