A 6-foot-6 sophomore forward at St. Peter’s Prep, Singh lived there briefly with his mother, Renee Kaur, but the town of about 26,000 just wasn’t working for the aspiring basketball star.
“That’s a country town,” Singh, who now holds scholarship offers from Villanova, Virginia, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Oregon State, among others, said during an extended interview last week at St. Peter’s Prep. “After one or two months down there I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
Asked about the craziest thing he saw in Winchester, the charismatic and engaging Singh flashed a broad smile and went in on the drag racing in the supermarket parking lot.
“On Friday night, right around 8 or 9 o’clock, they get the hip-hop going, they start revving the engines,” said Singh, who turns 17 in March. “A bunch of rednecks listening to some hip-hop. Sometimes noise complaints come in from disturbing the peace, the cops come, so they try to drag race before that.”
As an Indian, Singh said he also never felt comfortable around the local police officers.
“Walking in the neighborhood, they always have something to say,” he said. “It’s just like underlying tension and it just wasn’t cool.”
“I couldn’t do that,” he said of staying in Winchester. “It was going to be bad for basketball and it would be bad for education.”
So in February, Singh told his mom he had to bounce to a more metropolitan area and ended up living here with his aunt, Amresh Kaur. Though he was born in New Orleans and has also spent time in Tennessee (where his father now lives), Singh is of Indian descent and feels more comfortable amid the ethnic diversity of Jersey City, where there is plenty of good Indian food in Journal Square.
He ended up at St. Peter’s Prep last spring only after an aquaintance of his took at tour of the school and mentioned his name to third-year head coach Todd Decker.
“A two-sport kid from another school was transferring in and we gave him and his family a tour of the facilities and just talked to them about the program,” Decker said in an interview near his office. “I gave them my card and lo and behold, I think it was the end of May, I get a phonecall from the same gentleman saying, ‘I have a 6-7, 6-8 kid who’s from Georgia. He was home-schooled and he’s a very good player.’”
Decker’s immediate reaction was that the guy was just busting his chops with a fairytale. But the man showed up with the tall young Indian boy the next day.
“He was an unbelievable kid, he was a straight-A student,” Decker said.
Singh spent a day at the school and said he wanted to enroll. His mother then flew in to check St. Peter’s out and signed off on her son going there.
“He started working out with us all summer long and really that’s the rest of it,” Decker said.
Actually, the rest of it is just beginning for Singh.
Singh is part of a quartet of young stars — including freshman point guard Nate Pierre-Louis , who received his first scholarship offer from Seton Hall in the summer before seventh grade, and sophomore wings Najja Hunter and Kaleb Bishop — who all have the potential to play high-major Division 1 basketball.
During a pickup game last Friday, Singh, wearing grey shorts and a maroon “Marauders Basketball” T-shirt, flashed his vast skillset. After missing a 5-foot jumper in the lane, he aggressively grabbed the rebound and glided in for a thunderous putback dunk. A minute later, he drove the lane and put the ball up, only to have it knocked away by a teammate. Undeterred, he grabbed the rebound and touched it in off the glass.
During an impromptu dunk contest following the scrimmage, Singh broke out a windmill dunk.
Still, his true love is distributing the basketball.
Singh said he grew up watching the early 2000s Nets teams that made two NBA Finals and modeled his game after Jason Kidd because he wanted to be a point guard.
“I was always focused on Jason Kidd since I was little,” Singh said. “I needed to learn how to distribute and I loved the way he always got triple-doubles. So that’s kind of what I want to do this year. I want to see how many triple-doubles I can get.”
Singh has shot up from 6-2 to 6-6 in the last year and he knows he can’t be a point guard. He plays the 2 and the 3 with the New York Lightning AAU team and the 4 at St. Peter’s.
“As I got taller, now you gotta start changing your game up,” he said. “Now you gotta show your versatility,”
He has also studied video of Carmelo Anthony “to get my jump shot.”
“You know Jason Kidd, I love him to death but he can’t shoot,” Singh cracked. “Just like [Anthony's] jump shot, the way it was so smooth coming right up the middle, that’s what I tried to emulate.”
Singh’s game has already impressed longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski, who has been watching him since June.
“First of all, he has a very mature game,” Konchalski told SNY.tv. “He’s skilled and he’s really a perimeter player. He rebounds extremely well, he can shoot the 3, he can handle the ball. As a high school player, probably the thing he does best is rebound. He’s a very good offensive rebounder. He has soft hands. He can tip the ball. But he really has a skillset to be a perimeter player.
“His shot selection is improving. He had a tendency to chase the 3 a bit in the past, but he’s a legitimate 3-point threat. He’s very, very good.”
Singh and his talented teammates have begun to attract college coaches to the dimly lit St. Peter’s Prep gym.
So far, Villanova, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Princeton are among those that have been through, but Cincinnati is expected in later this week.
And by the time Singh, Hunter and Bishop are junior and seniors, it’s not unlikely that some of the biggest programs in the land will make St. Peter’s a must-see along with St. Anthony, St. Benedict’s and Roselle Catholic.
“If [Singh] continues to progress like he’s shown he can play anywhere in college basketball,” Decker said. “I think he has that type of ability. He’s got that type of personality to his game. And from what he’s shown so far he’s willing to put in the work to get there both athletically and academically.”
Singh said he knows that the big-time programs may one day come calling, but he’s trying not to get caught up in the hype just yet.
“Let’s see what happens,” he said. “I’m not one that looks into the future like that. I know its cliche but you really gotta take it day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month [Schools like] Kentucky, that’s going to be down in March, April. I’ll be playing 17-and-under [AAU]. That will be then and then they’ll be able to evaluate me.
“But if I think about that and forget about what I have to do now, that will never come.”