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Varun Ram on walking onto Maryland basketball: 'Don't stop. Don't quit.'

Five minutes with Maryland's 5'9, slam-dunking, neurobiologist point guard.

Varun Ram and a turtle, at Maryland's media day on Oct. 20.
Varun Ram and a turtle, at Maryland's media day on Oct. 20.
Brian Kapur

There isn't another player in college basketball like Varun Ram. These are some things Ram is:

  • A Maryland graduate with degrees in neurobiology and physiology
  • A current master's candidate in supply chain management
  • 5 feet 9 inches tall
  • Able to windmill-dunk a basketball
  • An every-semester dean's list member since enrolling at Maryland in 2012
  • A two-summer volunteer at India's Hoops Creating Hope charity, which helps students "create and develop the link between character, teamwork and communication with academic success and future goals"
  • A point guard and former walk-on to Maryland's men's basketball team, though that might be the least interesting item on this list

Since Ram clearly doesn't have much else going on, he joined Testudo Times for an interview at the Maryland basketball program's media day on Tuesday. Our conversation is lightly edited below for clarity:

Testudo Times: We met a couple years ago, back when I was a freshman. You were playing Armory gym basketball on Maryland's campus, and you were much better than the rest of us, and now you're here. You really walked on.

Varun Ram: Yeah. Started from the bottom.

TT: At this point, you've been here for awhile. This is your fourth year on the team. There aren't a lot of kids who start off playing in the Armory and then spend four years on Maryland's Division I basketball team. What's your advice to someone who wants to do that?

Ram: There's a lot of hard work that went into it. When I was playing at the Armory, I would just try and stay in shape in case I was going to get a tryout when I was playing. I would just say, "Stick with it." If I stopped playing every time someone told me, "You'll never play on the Maryland basketball team," then I wouldn't be here today. I would just say, "If you really, really want it, don't stop. Don't quit. Do everything in your power, try to get as much as help as you can and trust the process." I really believe in creating your own luck, and that's what I did with hard work. If someone wants to follow in my footsteps, work really hard and create your own luck.

TT: When you were back playing on campus, I saw you dunk. I was really confused, because you don't expect it. At what point did it become apparent to you that you had this physical ability to get that high in the air?

Ram: When I was young, I would always jump around. I guess a lot of it's genetic, which is funny saying. I don't really come from a family of athletes. But I just started working out my later years in high school, and I think that really pushed the envelope in terms of my athleticism, and I was able to jump higher. I always used to jump up and try to grab the rim and then eventually, doing that, doing that, getting stronger, I was able to dunk. That was when I was really fresh. Now, I have to be really warm to dunk. I don't know if you were at Madness, but I totally blew that dunk.

TT: I didn't see it, so I don't know.

Ram: OK, so I actually don't know what you're talking about.

TT: Your team over the last couple years has kind of been built through a lot of transfers, you included [from Trinity College, before walking on in 2012]. I wonder about your thoughts on that kind of interesting way of building a team, because this team's really come together from different places. A bunch of you have played at other schools. Do you think Mark Turgeon's onto something there?

Ram: I think that's just the era. There was one year – I think it was two years ago – when there were, like, 200 transfers. It was some ridiculous number. Coach was like, "Back when I was playing, if you heard someone was transferring when he was playing, it was crazy." I think that's just how basketball's progressed. Obviously, Coach Turgeon's done a really good job of picking the guys that are transferring for the right reasons and getting guys that are still good players, because sometimes you'll get into situations where guys are transferring and it's not really the program, it's them. I think Coach Turgeon's gotten really good transfers, and there is something to say about what he's done with the transfers we've gotten. You know: Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz, Robert Carter. These are all great guys that, for whatever reason, didn't like their situations and have been able to help Maryland basketball.

TT: You graduated last year, right?

Ram: I did, yeah.

TT: What was your degree, again?

Ram: Physiology and neurobiology.

TT: I knew it was something easy like that.

Ram: [Laughs uneasily at reporter's bad joke.]

TT: What are you doing now?

Ram: So, now I'm doing supply chain management at the business school. It's a year-and-a-half master's program, and I'll hopefully be done by the end of this spring.

TT: What do you think you'll be doing next year?

Ram: That's the million-dollar question! I'll be applying to a bunch of jobs in consulting. I haven't completely ruled out medicine – not for this year, but maybe a few years down the road. And depending on how the season goes, if there's an opportunity for me to play somewhere overseas, even just for a few years where it pays for itself, I wouldn't be opposed to that. That would be pretty cool, just to extend my basketball career.