When the University of Maryland needed a defensive spark in the last seconds of their March Madness opener against Valparaiso, they called up reserve player Varun Ram. According to the Washington post, Ram’s late game disruption of Valparaiso’s offense caused Indian Americans around the country to take notice. As I looked into more detail about him, it seemed to me that this 5-9 point guard is really a giant in many ways.
Varun Ram first placed NCAA Division III basketball at Trinity and then transferred to the University of Maryland. He made the Big Ten Athletic conference team as a walk-on on – truly amazing as only one of five Indian Americans playing Division I ball. While he only played 57 minutes this year and scored all of his points on free throws, he became a fan favorite because of his hustle.
Ram says here that when he was younger, other players did not know what to make of him.
“You don’t really see a lot of Indian players. Especially in AAU every time we’d travel they’d see me and they’d say, who is this kid? I think they’d let their guard down. And it was always great to see the expression on their face when they realize, OK, maybe he can play, maybe he can shoot, maybe he’s fast. And to see that look of bewilderment on their faces, I definitely took pride in that. It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life playing basketball, so I’m used to it.”
While all that is amazing, it’s not as amazing as what he does off the court. He has a 3.9 GPA while double majoring in neurobiology and physiology. He volunteers for Cross Over Basketball and Scholars Academy, an organization that uses basketball to keep Indian kids in school. He spent two weeks last summer working with kids in India, as he speaks Tamil.
While Maryland was eliminated in their next game, despite being a senior, Ram still has one more year of eligibility left. He has to decide between doing a graduate program at Maryland and playing and going to medical school (he also finished his pre-med requirements). I hope he decides to play another year!
(photo credit: @manofmahogany)