There has been a trend over the past couple of years of Canadians going across the border to pay basketball in the United States. This year, 28 Canadians participated in the NCAA national basketball tournament. That is three more than last year’s 25.
Five of those Canadians play on the New Mexico State Aggies, who played the Kansas Jayhawks in the first round. One of those players is senior Daniel Mullings, a 6’2″ guard from Toronto, Ontario. Mullings has helped lead the Aggies to four straight national tournament appearances.
“They’ve got a good little recruiting project going back to Canada,” said Mullings.
That recruiting is led by assistant coach Paul Weir. Weir is from Ontario, and has connections in that area. That is why all the Canadian players on New Mexico State are from Ontario, including Tanveer Bhullar. Bhullar is a 7’3″ centre. Last year he was red-shirted, and this year he struggled with some injuries, but still got some playing time.
He is one of the players Paul Weir helped bring into the program.
“If it wasn’t for him, none of us would be here right now,” said Bhullar.
For Bhullar, the amount of Canadians on the New Mexico State team made his transition easier.
“They knew where I came from, they knew how I grew up, I knew them from before, so that relationship is there already,” said Bhullar.
For some of the players, it is their first time going away to school or going to the U.S., so Mullings can help them with that transition.
Mullings is one of those players who helped welcome Bhullar. He feels that since he had the same sort of journey, and comes from the same place, he can help make things easier for the new guys.
“I can kind of relate with them, because I’ve been through the same kind of steps,” said Mullings. “I could make them feel a little more comfortable.”
Mullings says that his American teammates don’t even make Canadian stereotype jokes anymore, due in large part to the amount of Canadians on the roster. But Mullings himself likes to brag to his friends and family back home about the differing weather between New Mexico and Ontario.
“When it comes to winter time, they’re going through all the snow days, and a lot of snow, where as here you may get a snow fall one day, but it’s not going to stay for the whole day. By the next morning, it will be gone.”
Mullings has represented his country on the world stage, playing for the Canadian university team. Through that team he went to China and Russia to play basketball, and played under Canadian national coach and former Toronto Raptors coach Jay Triano.
“I learned a lot of things from coach Jay Triano and Dave Smart,” said Mullings. “I’ve been able to take their principles and apply them here.”
Bhullar has also played for Canada. In 2012, while Bhullar was still in high school, he played for the Cadet team.
Mullings, Bhullar, and the rest of the players on the Aggies, lost to Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But with so many Canadians coming back next year, and New Mexico State’s reputation of bringing in more, they are certainly a team for Canadians to watch.