Basketball wonder kid

Of course, the coach plays a significant – often the most important role – in the rise of a player. And basketball coach Pasha Bains had the eye and the intuition to see special skills in Manroop Clair. But Manroop’s family have had an equally crucial part to play in the sensational rise of this 17-year-old hoopster from Surrey.

Last week Manroop Clair became the first youngster from these parts to sign up to play for the University of Hawaii (UH). This certainly is a big step. But Manroop has his eyes firmly fixed on bigger things – to play in the NBA.

“I want to play in the NBA one day. But that is not my ultimate goal. I want to excel in the NBA,`says Clair.

Youngest of three siblings, Clair always had this urge and desire to excel at whatever he did, even if these were just small games in the backyard with his dad and older brother Swaroop. He always wanted to win.

He comes from a family of sportsmen with both his father, Surinder and his grandfather, Niranjan, having been excellent hockey players back in India. His father runs an auto financing company in Surrey (Rapid Finance) but Manroop never really wanted to get into his father`s business. And dad never forced him.

“I could see Roop liked playing basketball and I gave him the freedom and the best possible support that I could. I want him to achieve his dream of playing in the NBA. And at the rate he is progressing I`m confident he will do us proud,“ says the wiz kid’s dad.

Before signing with Hawaii last week, Clair had received interest from more than two dozen programs, including Rice, New Mexico State, Santa Clara, Weber State and Washington. But as a 6 ft 2, 170-pound shooting guard, it is evident he will have to bulk up if he is to be a success at that level.

“Yes, I know I have to hit the gym hard and put on some muscle. And I’m prepared to go the extra mile and do everything that is expected of me. Even more than that. I know I just have to do it,” says a determined Clair.

In the past 12 months, Clair has transformed himself from a little known Lower Mainland high school star to the “ big thing“ of Indian basketball players. After his junior year at Burnaby South secondary school in Vancouver, where he averaged 22 points per game, he exploded on the Amateur Athletic Union summer circuit.

His rise to fame comes as no surprise to Pasha Bains, who immediately saw something in Clair when they met six years ago at a DRIVE basketball camp, where Bains is the head coach.

Bains took Clair under his wing, working him out for hours after school and every day during the summer. While Clair credits his older brother Swaroop Clair as his biggest influence, Bains is not far behind.

Clair has spent the last half-year playing for national powerhouse Huntington Prep (in West Virginia, U.S.) which finished the season as the sixth best high school team in the country with a 28-2 record.

“Clair is one of the most offensively polished players that Canada has to offer,” said Tariq Sbiet, founder and editor of North Pole Hoops, a Canadian-based basketball recruiting website. Sbiet hadClair ranked as the seventh-best high school prospect in Canada. “He is locked and loaded, never hesitant to shoot.”

“Pasha’s helped me out so much throughout the years with anything from basketball toschool to life in general,” said Clair. The two talk every day via text message or Facebook. “He’s been like a big brother to me, basically.”

After Clair expressed interest in playing his senior year at a high-profile U.S. school, Bains, who’s helped send more than a dozen DRIVE players to Division I schools, made some calls. Clair started the season as the starting shootingguard for La Jolla Prep in California, where he was the team’s leading scorer, but he left the team in November and enrolled at Trent International in Texas. During Clair’s brief stint there, he caught the eye of Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford at a holiday tournament in Illinois. Clair transferred for the third time in a year to Huntington Prep at the beginning of January.

“Right now, I can say I’m not the best player on this team,” Clair said. “But by the end of my basketball career, I want to prove I was the best wherever I went.”

Clair has this air of confidence. He says he’s going to be 195 pounds by the time he steps on Hawaii’s campus. He’s sure he will perform superbly there. From Hawaii it’s going to be the NBA. And in the NBA he’s going to be a star. So he’s clear about what he wants.

Clair wants to do it for his family, for Pasha and for the entire Indian community — especially the one back home in Surrey.

“When I make it to the NBA, everybody from home makes it,” Clair said. “I want to give back.”