24/7-365. Basketball Lives Here.
Throughout his sophomore season, Seattle U guard Manroop Clair spent his breaks in his hometown of Vancouver, BC training with Ball Don’t Stop. There was no camera crew, no interviews, and no episode series. Just straight up work.
Clair was only averaging about eight minutes per game last season for the Redhawks. During our workouts we went hard, worked on some weaknesses, but more importantly we just rep’d it out on his strengths. If he wasn’t going to be playing a lot of minutes, it was going to be really important for him to maintain the fire and supreme confidence that led him to legendary status in his hometown.
This city loves the game. But, not a lot of players truly make it out of here. By make it we mean actually have a true impact at the NCAA Division 1 level and/or go onto play professionally. BC has only produced three NBA players and two of them aren’t even from Vancouver (Steve Nash and Kelly Olynyk). There has been high school prodigy’s that had all the hype but didn’t quite pan out or even end up playing at the next level. There have even been players that went onto play Division 1 basketball in the US, but a lot of them ended up coming back home or just drifting away from the game all together.
If you’re not prepared mentally and/or physically it can be tough down there.
That’s why when Manroop was tearing up the high school hoops scene 4-5 years ago and turning heads all over the West Coast, it was big news. His game was so unique. He was cold-blooded. The cradle into 30 and sometimes even 35 foot 3-pointers with defenders draped all over him, the step-back, the grit, this Canadian kid that played with a chip on his shoulder created one of the most electrifying atmospheres in the Northwest AAU circuit.
What made it so special was the fact that not only was this a BC boy, this was an East-Indian kid, who had Sikh heritage. Manroop’s parents are from Punjab, India. His brother Swaroop sports a turban. This was rare and something that most folks south of the I-5 hadn’t really seen before.
So when he got to the next level Clair knew he wasn’t only putting on for Canada; he’s putting on for India and Punjabi’s all over the world.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do something for Sikhs”, Clair tells Ball Don’t Stop. “We’re warriors and that’s something I want to show when I’m out there on the floor.”
Before NBA D-Leaguer’s Sim Bhullar and Satnam Singh, it was a huge deal if a Punjabi kid made noise in the basketball world. When it came to his community, Manroop made more noise than anyone.
Take it back to 2006. When he was just a youngster going from camp to camp and tournament to tournament with his older brother who at the time was one of the most respected ballers in the city. Clair was cooking on kids three years older than him on a daily basis.
His brother worked with him everyday, putting up jumpers, playing one-on-one off three dribbles, two dribbles and sometimes even one-dribble. He taught him how to play the game the American way; he engraved a toughness and confidence into him that is responsible for this article.
This season Clair has broke out and is doing something that no East-Indian/Punjabi has ever done at the NCAA Division 1 level and something that a player from British Columbia hasn’t done in years.
Coming off the bench for Cameron Dollar’s Redhawks, Clair has been the go-to-scorer for the team and is averaging 10.9 points per game in 23.6 minutes per game through 15 appearances this season.
In conference play, Clair leads the team in scoring with an average of 14.5 points per game. As of this article, the 6-foot-2 guard is averaging three 3-pointers per game and is 24th in the NCAA in 3-pointers made. He’s also shooting a WAC leading 43.5 percent from beyond the arc.
The Surrey, BC native always had a relentless work ethic and he defined the term supreme confidence. Clair didn’t give a sh*t who was guarding him and didn’t back down from anybody. That’s why when he had a quiet first season at Seattle U, it felt odd.
That reduced-role stage is the point where most Canadian players usually either give up and come play in Canada or quit all together. Not Manroop though. He didn’t come this far just to say he came this far. The guy who was once drawing comparisons to a young Steph Curry and Jimmer Fredette didn’t let playing a much smaller role than he was accustomed to throughout his whole life shake his game up at all. As you saw in the videos above, he kept working and stayed sharp mentally, knowing his time would come and that he’d have to be ready.
When asked about his breakout Clair said “I always knew I was going to erupt, I just had to stay patient and trust the process”.
Manroop’s first big game of the season was his career-high 22 points against Mississippi Valley State and ever since then he’s got himself into a rhythm. A few weeks later he dropped 19 points off the bench against UC-Davis which included some clutch 3-pointers that led the Redhawks to the 80-75 OT win. He’s established himself as a sharpshooter and teams are starting to learn that you can’t leave him open. By the end of some games, Clair is being face-guarded by a longer and taller defender.
Allen Iverson once told me all a good scorer really needs is to see the ball go in a few times and he’s set. “It doesn’t matter how big you are or how athletic you are, basketball is all mental,” said A.I. during one of our interviews in 2015.
Clair’s confidence may just be multiplying with every good game he’s having for the Redhawks this season. He has rediscovered that swagger that made him a household name in BC, and it looks as if he’s only getting started. Check out Manroop’s highlights through his first 15 games of the season below.
I knew Roop was for real back in 2006 at the Dolphin Park Finals in Richmond, BC. At the age of just 11 he had the kahunas to get on the court against a stacked Seattle squad and go right at Jamal Crawford, putting the ball between the then-Knicks stars legs and sending the crowd into frenzy. To some that sequence was just a “fun moment” from the annual tournament, but it went to show how competitive and confident this kid actually was. Manroop always had “It”.
But, still, who would’ve thought a skinny brown kid from Surrey, BC would do go onto play for US high school powerhouse Huntington Prep alongside future NBA Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins? Who would’ve thought that kid would go onto play for the Canadian Junior National Team and in 2015/16 make his mark at the collegiate level?
He knew. He always knew.
Now that the time has come and he has proved that he belongs here, Clair is ready to take another step forward in his career. This breakout is something the lanky guard had expected of himself coming into this season; it’s not something he’s even close to content with.
“I’m never satisfied, I always feel like there is something more I can do,” says a humbled Clair.
The 7-9 Redhawks will need all the scoring they can get from the junior guard this season, and he’s more than ready to be their go-to-guy.
It’ll be interesting to see where Manroop’s career goes from here. With basketball booming in Vancouver and the NBA planting it’s seeds in India, Clair has the opportunity to do something special. There is talk arising that a professional league is in the works for India. Clair finishing his career strong at Seattle U and going onto be one of the faces of a pro league in his parent’s country would be a cool story.
As far as this season goes, Roop has the opportunity to cement himself as the best Indo-Canadian to ever play at the NCAA Divison 1 level. In a city, which is home to nearly 300,000 Indo-Canadians and 250,000 Sikh’s, that would be huge.
There is a new wave of athletes coming out of British Columbia and they’ll all be looking up to Manroop. Every time he takes the floor for Seattle U, he’s putting on for a lot of people and for every big game he has, he could be inspiring a kid that shares the same background as him.
“I don’t know what’s going to be next,” responds Clair when asked about what the future holds for him. “I’m just hoping the ball continues bouncing for me.”
There hasn’t been a Punjabi perimeter player that has made a serious mark at the NCAA Division 1 level yet. But, Clair is showing good signs of being able to do so.
It makes perfect sense. Who else would it be? If anyone has the heart and game to go out and be the first of his kind, it’s Manroop Clair.
By: Ekam Nagra