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The Iron Sikh

Why an awkward, talentless GW student entered draft

Posted: Friday May 25, 2007 9:47AM; Updated: Friday May 25, 2007 9:45AM
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Monty Harika (right) hopes entering the draft will help him earn a spot on GW's basketball team.
Monty Harika (right) hopes entering the draft will help him earn a spot on GW's basketball team.
Photo courtesy of Monty Harika
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By Monty Singh Harika

I know what you might be thinking: another no-name enters the NBA Draft to get his 15 seconds of fame. I will not lie to you -- this is what I am doing -- but I fancy myself as more than a generic 6-foot-5 college student who thinks he can be the next Steve Nash. My name is Monty Singh Harika and I am the first Sikh to enter the NBA Draft. In fact, I'm the first Sikh to be a part of any sport's draft. Is that what makes me different from any other person who has entered the draft? I guess it does.

I grew up in a strict Sikh family in Pittsburgh, where a typical day (and sometimes night) was spent in the library studying to be a doctor. My older brother and sister are currently in medical school and while they were at the library, I was on my couch watching television and eating Twinkies. When they got back from the library, I tried to get away from them by shooting hoops in my driveway. Those Twinkies made me a little bit on the plump side. By my junior year of high school I weighed 290 pounds and when I wore my red rain coat, little kids thought I was that Kool-Aid dude. It wasn't pretty.

I always loved basketball. While I was shooting outside by myself or playing with friends, I'd imagine I was a fat Michael Jordan hitting buzzer beaters. With the support of my friends, I stuck with basketball and started to lose weight. I did not play freshman year of high school because my knees were horrible from the extra weight, but by my sophomore year I was a member of the team (though I barely played). I played through the rest of high school, but never got much PT and I thought my NBA dreams might be shattered. But then a miracle happened: I got into George Washington University. How I got in is a mystery -- my GPA was probably lower than Darko Milicic's scoring average his rookie season. I had a another big dream at that point -- to walk onto the GW basketball team.

I knew I was too inexperienced to get onto the team so I made the gym my second home. My friends Alexa and Neyla forced me to run with them, knowing I could never say no to two pretty girls. Through it all I attempted to get better. My nickname is Cadillac. I used to be Escalade when I was fat, nicknamed after the And 1 mixtape player who was really big, but as I lost weight and was not big enough. I got down to 170 pounds, so I was a Cadillac.

Throughout high school I said one day I am going to be in the NBA. Many people told me to stop dreaming, while others just told me to go for it. I just ignored all the haters and continued to work hard. As long as I was religious and followed my religion and said my prayers, I knew God will always be there for me. Then I had the idea of entering the NBA Draft. At first I just wanted to put my name to see it on a Web site as early entrant. But it was like a light bulb went off in my head (which isn't hard since I have a big head). I wanted to get my name out there and use my sense of humor to get recognized.

Before I knew it, my story was in the Washington Post. All my friends loved it and were so proud of me, and of course, there were haters. I even had to change some of my image, while my two home girls Tanu and Avneet told me I need to change my wardrobe. In some ways, the dream is already coming true. The GW coaches have already seen so much of me in the gym, they invited me to try out for the team next semester. I'm still going to go through with the draft, even though I realize my chances of getting drafted are small to non-existent. It doesn't change the fact that I'm the first Sikh to declare for the NBA draft. And if I make the GW team, my other dream of playing college ball will be realized as well.

Not bad for an overweight kid who used to drown his sorrows in Twinkies. Not bad at all.

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