Five things to know about Varun Ram, Maryland’s last-second hero


The following article was posted by Dan Steinberg in The Washington Post.

Varun Ram was swarmed by reporters Friday night, after his 13 seconds of
late-game defense helped Maryland escape with a 65-62 win over
Valparaiso. With Maryland in all sorts of foul trouble, the 5-foot-9 Ram
— Maryland’s smallest player — came in off the bench and wound up
covering Keith Carter as he attempted to take a potentially game-tying
three-pointer. Ram disrupted the play — possibly with some uncalled
contact — and the Terps won.

Here are five things to know about Ram.

He’s one of only five Indian Americans currently playing Division I
men’s basketball. Ram is the son of Kolandavel and Santhini Ramasamy,
who came to this country more than 25 years ago, according to an
excellent profile of Ram in the Washington Times. From that story:

has one year of eligibility remaining at Maryland and was told by
Turgeon he’d be welcomed back next year. He’s pursuing a double-major in
neurobiology and physiology and eventually wants to become a doctor,
but not in the next couple years. He recently applied for a few
consulting jobs in the area with hopes of building his resume.

he ends up doing, Ram’s identity won’t change. He’ll always feel
blessed that he was able to play for Maryland, representing his home
state and cultural heritage at the same time. And to many, he’ll always
be the Indian basketball player.

“I’ve always kind of taken it as
kind of a chip on my shoulder, because there’s not many Indian
basketball players,” Ram said. “But in terms of the way I train and my
outlook, I really don’t like to think about it. Race is only skin-deep.”

spent two weeks in India in the summer of 2014, working with the
Crossover Basketball & Scholars Academy, a program that uses
basketball to try to convince kids to stay in school. He is scheduled to
go back again this summer, coaching and mentoring several hundred
students in the rapidly growing program. (The program focuses on the
Chennai region of Southeastern India; Ram speaks Tamil, the region’s


“He embodies what it means to be a student athlete,
and that’s really important for us,” said Shaun Jayachandran, the
president of Crossover Basketball and a former assistant coach at
Alexandria’s Bishop Ireton. “He looks and fits the part of an every-day
person. And then [the students] watch him go dunk a basketball, they
watch him put on a dribbling clinic. The fact that we tell them he plays
for Maryland is a big deal; then they see his athleticism and they see
him speak, and it really translates.”

According to the Times
story, Ram’s father is an IT manager at the National Weather Service,
and his mother is a toxicologist at the Environmental Protection Agency.


Ram is from Howard County, went to River Hill High, and is as steeped
in Maryland basketball as anyone on this roster. Via the Baltimore Sun:

for Maryland has long been Ram’s dream. After moving to Columbia from
Lexington, Ky., when he was in grade school, Ram would go nearly every
day to a gym that “was literally in my back yard.” He became obsessed
with the game, and with a Maryland team that went to two straight Final
Fours, winning the national championship in 2002.

“I had a little
hoop on my door, and I’d watch Steve Blake and Juan Dixon do their
moves on television, and when they’d go to commercial, I’d do the
moves,” Ram recalled. “I can’t believe I’m on the same team as they were
once on. There’s so much pride and tradition in this program. When I
first made the team, I wondered if the feeling would ever fade. It
hasn’t. I wake up every morning feeling so blessed.”

While he had a 4.56 GPA at River Hill, Ram has struggled to a 3.99 GPA at Maryland.

(Because there seems to be some confusion, that was a joke. A 3.99 GPA on a 4.0 scale is very good.)

3) Ram is Maryland’s designated defender of Melo Trimble in practice.

a great defender,” Trimble said on Friday. “He always makes me better.
When I’m on offense he presses the ball, and even on offense he does a
great job on offense, makes me run around, makes me chase him, just
makes me better. And he got in today and played defense, and that’s what
he does on me every day.”

4) Ram probably was supposed to foul Carter on Friday night before the Valparaiso guard could get in shooting position.

probably wasn’t great in the [last] timeout, because I changed my mind a
couple times,” Coach Mark Turgeon said of the late-game strategy.
“Let’s foul, let’s don’t foul. Those timeouts are forever. Gives me too
much time to think. But if it was under [five seconds] and they were
still struggling, which they were, we were supposed to foul, as long as
they weren’t in the shooting motion. But we didn’t. Which was fine….

were supposed to foul if they were dribbling out toward half court,”
Turgeon went on. “[Ram] probably didn’t do it because he was on the
side, and in the end it worked out for us.”

Valparaiso fans, of course, were convinced that Ram did foul.

“I thought it was all ball,” Ram said with a smile. “But it all happened so fast.”

5) Ram was mobbed by his teammates after that play.

was unbelievable,” Ram said. “It felt like I just hit the game-winner,
to be honest. The way my teammates responded and picked me up, it felt
like I just hit a game-winning shot. It meant the world to me.”

A reporter pointed out that Ram was sort of running around aimlessly.

“Yeah, yeah,” he agreed. “That’s kind of what I do.”

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