Recently we had the opportunity to meet Australia’s tallest man and all around great bloke – Kewal Shiels. Standing at 223cm (7ft3″) with a wingspan of 7ft8″. Just to put things in perspective; Kewal is 7cm taller than Shaquille O’Neal, 23cm taller than a baby giraffe and 71cm taller than Danny Devito. The first thing we couldn’t wait to find out from Kewal, was whether he could palm a
basketball iPhone 6 plus, that and of course just how many cans of beer it would take him to become a “Wizard” in the classic drinking game Wizard Sticks. For those unaware, Wizard sticks is a drinking game where after each time you finish your can of beer you duct tape a new one on top of the last one, the aim of the game – to have a staff of beers that is taller than you at which point you can claim the title of “Wise Wizard”.
Before cracking the first beer, we decided to head to the local basketball court with Kewal to see just how close he was to dunking the ball without having to leave the ground. Now it’s pretty typical for most people to assume that a bloke over 200cm plays basketball, but not always well. As soon as Kewal took to the court we could see he was more than your stereotypical tall guy that just locks down the key in social league basketball, he can definitely ball! Currently in pre-season training for his new team Hume City Broncos, we got to asking Kewal a few questions about exactly where he got his height from, his childhood and what it’s like playing under his coach and Melbourne Tigers legend Lanard Copeland.
Plus2: Could you tell us a little bit about your childhood and where you got your height from?
Kewal: It’s a little bit of a mystery as to where that came from to be honest, because we’re a very mixed bunch in our family. We’re really all shapes and sizes; I’ve got an aunt who’s four ft eleven. Having said that my mum’s 6ft, and dad was 6ft 4 so I guess in my immediate family there was a little bit of height, just not to the extent that I’ve grown obviously.
Plus2: Where did you grow up?
Kewal: In different parts of country Victoria actually, we moved around a little bit. As a youngster we lived in Warragul until I was about seven years old, then we moved to Yarra Junction where we lived until I was around thirteen, and then we moved up to Yarrawonga up on the border where I lived until moving over to College in the States at nineteen.
Plus2: Did you spend a lot of your time as a youth getting annoyed at people asking you to stand back-to-back with them to see who was taller?
Kewal: Standing back to back yeah, or getting mistaken for being like three years older than I was! (laughs) Mum actually told me a story recently about how she was at the supermarket with me as a toddler once, and this lady tried to strike up a conversation with me. After she only got baby-talk back in response, she asked mum if I was a bit slow, thinking I was three or four years old when I was about 18 months! (laughs)
Plus2: When were you first able to dunk the ball?
Kewal: That’s a good question. I can’t remember the exact age but if I was to guess I would say I was around fifteen.
Kewal Shiels shows us just how close he is to standstill dunking the ball.
Plus2: Were you the teenager that was able to buy his mates alcohol underage?
Kewal: Ahh I was pretty well behaved. The unfortunate thing is when you’re growing up in a small town and everyone knows you, you can’t get away with too much in terms of that. That being said, we always had our ways of getting it when we wanted some! (laughs).
Plus2: Yeah fair enough, what was the biggest cultural shock of college life or living in the states in general?
Kewal: It was definitely the climate for the part of the country I was living in, I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Winters got down to minus forty with blizzards at times and just having to acclimatise to that was something I wasn’t prepared for. You really needed boots, a snow-jacket, gloves and beanie to walk even the smallest distance, because any part of your body that was exposed felt like it was going to drop off. I think because of that everything there was drive-through too, you had drive-through pharmacies and even drive-through ATM’s just because no one wanted to get out of their car. I’d also include getting woken up in my dormroom at 3am because two football players were having a heated arguemnt outside my door about whether Lil Wayne or Eminem would win in a rap battle as a bit of a cultural shock! (laughs)
Plus2: What was it like switching from a place where you could legally drink to a place where you were underage again?
Kewal: It was a little frustrating. I went over there when I was nineteen so had already been drinking for a year and a bit, and then I wasn’t able to again. However the focus and purpose of being there was obviously basketball, so I was pretty disciplined. If we did drink it was always more fun to do that on campus or a house party anyway so honestly it wasn’t too much of an issue.
Plus2: What’s it like having Lanard Copeland as a coach now?
Kewal: We’ve only recently started pre-season so at the moment we’re mainly just scrimmaging and doing a little fitness work. From the couple of workouts I have had with him though, he has a good eye for little things in terms of fixing technical flaws and things like that, which can make a big difference sometimes.
Plus2: What’s the main thing you are hoping to get out of the upcoming season?
Kewal: I guess the aim is always to compete well at the highest level you can, and next season will be a little bit of a step up compared to the level I was playing this year, but it’s not a standard I’m unfamiliar with. I’m just hoping to contribute and perform to the best of my ability and I’m confident if I am able to do that, then everything else will kind of take care of itself; but at the same time I try not to put too much pressure on myself.
Plus2: Is the NBL on the horizon?
Kewal: I’m not sure about that. I’m at an age now where although I’m still young, basketball wise I’m not that young, so I know there’s a very slim time window if that was to happen. Like I said, hopefully we have a good season this year and personally I do well, and if that happens I’m sure it will open some doors come the end of the year.
Plus2: Do you have any customisations around the house for your height?
Kewal: Not a lot. I do have a custom bed which is 8ft long and queen size width, so that’s helpful but yeah in terms of everything else not much, hopefully I have a chance to one day build a custom house. I’d definitely have the doorways and benches a bit higher! I’m fortunate enough to have a big car now, but my first car was actually a Holden Barina which was a hand me down from my mum, it was probably pretty comical for everyone else to watch me drive that!
Plus2: Like the tall bloke from the Simpson’s?
Kewal: Yeah exactly, “Do you find something comical about my appearance when I’m driving my automobile?” (laughs)
Plus2: What is the hardest thing to shop for being a tall man?
Kewal: Just clothes in general, but with pants getting the length and the waist in my size is difficult. Tops are tricky as well but your ones seem to fit perfectly, not too baggy and the length is great.
Plus2: If you could change one thing to be more tall friendly what would it be?
Kewal: Horse racing! (laughs)
Plus2: Besides basketball, what’s the biggest advantage of being so tall?
Kewal: Well at gigs and concerts it’s an advantage, although probably not as much for whoever is behind me. Also, although the photo requests can get tiresome, I try and turn it into an advantage on a night out. Sometimes Ill get a drink for every photo I take and it can be a very cheap night out!
Plus2: Do you have a response for the age old and obvious statement people make of letting you know that you’re tall – just incase you weren’t already aware?
Kewal: It must just be the verbal form of a knee-jerk reaction, because surely they don’t think I’ve lived 26 years without realising that! I often just say something really obvious back, like “that’s quite a tache you’ve got on you!” I’ve almost got myself in trouble a couple of times pointing out to someone that they were a little overweight in response. You have to pick your battles though, I try to be the bigger man, metaphorically speaking, but if someone is really bothering me I can’t help stooping to their level! (laughs)
Plus2: Lastly, how many cans of beer does it take for you to become a Wizard?
Kewal: (laughs) I’m guessing the whole slab!
Best of luck to Kewal and the Hume City Broncos when they tip-off from March. You can follow Kewal @KTIME_21 on Instagram.