A new movie documents how Harleen Sidhu, from humble beginnings in Surrey, grew up to make basketball history in the U.S.
“Press Breaker” tells the story of Sidhu and her journey to became the first South Asian Canadian woman to play NCAA Division 1 basketball, and also the first Punjabi woman in the league.
A 22-minute version of the film airs nationally on OMNI Television Saturday (Aug. 20) and again Aug. 27, starting at 7:30 p.m.
Family members, coaches, reporters and others are interviewed for “Press Breaker,” launched in 2021 as a Telus Storyhive project directed by Paneet Singh.
Sidhu grew up in the game and was inspired by her father, Jay, who played championship-level basketball with North Surrey Secondary in the early 1980s. In the movie, Jay says he was the first player in B.C. to wear a turban on the court.
Young Harleen first wore a Khalsa Lions jersey in elementary school, then transferred to Princess Margaret’s Grade 8 team. Controversy erupted when she was banned for playing too many minutes with a senior squad. The media reported the story of a young player who’d been “benched by bureaucrats,” and lawyers got involved.
It was a major event in Sidhu’s basketball life, which continued at Fleetwood Park Secondary during her senior years. One day at practice she tore her PCL ligament, an injury that later cut her career short as a Cornhusker in Nebraska, where Sidhu had struggled with culture shock.
In 2014 she ended up coming back “home” to play at UBC for another two seasons and inspire young Khalsa students who cheered her on.