Ryan Agarwal, who had offers from more than a dozen D-1 programs, committed to the Stanford Cardinal last Tuesday.
“DIFFERENT,” the title of Indian American high school basketball phenom Ryan Agarwal’s recent Stanford University commitment video reads.
It’s become a mantra of Agarwal’s, and it’s also a sentiment he voiced with The American Bazaar earlier this month.
When asked what advice he might give to other Indian Americans interested in pursuing basketball, his answer was simple: “You just gotta treat yourself like you’re different.”
“Different, it’s just a word, but that’s the dream,” he narrates in the opening line of his commitment video.
“The only way to be noticed and taken to the next level is to be different. There are too many players that are the same that don’t get recognized because other players overtake the shadow by being unique,” he told The American Bazaar.
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“I have to use the advantage of being different to help improve my game along with inspire others in this world.”
And coming from a community with little basketball pedigree it seems like the 17-year old is well on his way to doing just that.
While the past few decades have seen the Indian American community climb to heights never seen before, reaching insurmountable levels of success in fields and sectors such as business, entertainment, and politics, it still lags behind in the sporting world.
It is especially true of the sport of basketball.
After witnessing the success of talents such as Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin and what they’ve done for the Chinese and other Asian American communities, Indian Americans have longed for a comparable talent.
Many thought the next genesis of South Asian hoopers would come in the form of giants. At least that’s what recent history might suggest. The greatest talent from the community we’ve seen thus far has come from the likes of Indo-Canadian Sim Bhullar and Indian-born Satnam Singh, both 7-foot low-post behemoths who had stints in the NBA.
Bhullar became the first player of Indian descent to play in an NBA game in 2015 and Singh was the first Indian-born player to be drafted, also in 2015. Although they broke glass ceilings by making it to such a stage in the first place, unfortunately neither has enjoyed much success in the league.
It seemed as if the community would have to wait awhile before they saw such a talent grace the courts.
But Agarwal may already be well on his way to change that.
Standing at 6’7 and a slender 175 pounds, the Indian American teen is a far cry away from the two leaguers in Singh and Bhullar in terms of size or strength. But, don’t be fooled, the kid is a certified bucket.
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A prolific shooter from the three-point line and beyond, along with the ability score in the midrange or to take it to the rim and finish, coupled with his slender frame and long arms, and it’s no surprise why Agarwal has received a number of Kevin Durant and Brandon Ingram comparisons growing up.
However, he would describe his own game as a combination of those players along with a mix of Duncan Robinson and Klay Thompson, depending on the situation.
“KD is a guy who’s obviously an elite shooter, but he also is very good with the ball in his hands. He has handles, he can make plays off the dribble and score at the midrange and midpost level too… but then a lot of people see me as like a Duncan Robinson,” he said.
Someone who doesn’t put the ball on the floor a lot, but rather someone who is “coming off staggers, coming off handoffs, flare screens.” Someone like Thompson, a guy who can get you 20+ points a night while barely dribbling, he says.
While the Slim Reaper comparisons are there, Agarwal is more comfortable playing in the role of the latter. “I can see myself as both, obviously I’d rather not put the ball on the floor if I don’t have to and rather just get a shot.”
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And Agarwal has excelled in that role thus far. After all, it’s why he’s a four-star recruit, the 89th ranked player in the nation and 11th in the state of Texas. It’s also helped him garner the attention of more than a dozen D1 schools.
However, perhaps none more meaningful than the one he received from his dream school, Stanford University.
For Agarwal, it was more than just an offer from the best school in the country. It was the realization that this was all really possible; that the amalgamation of all the hard work he’s put into the game of basketball could take him to heights he had never dreamed of.
“I’ve always seen Stanford as an unreachable school. Once I started basketball I realized I could have a chance of going there,” he said. “The day that they asked me to come for an unofficial visit was one of the best days of my life. I was so excited to finally visit the school. I never would’ve thought that I would have the opportunity to attend that school.”
Basketball wise, the Cardinal check all the boxes for Agarwal, too. “I had a good relationship with Coach [Jerod] Haase and the rest of the coaching staff. It fits my play style with utilizing shooters and spreading the floor. It’s in a great location and has a great education,” he said.
The Coppell, Texas, hooper isn’t the only notable Lone Star talent to commit to Stanford either. He will be joining Dallas-area, five-star point forward and McDonald’s All-American Harrison Ingram, who announced his commitment in September.
Agarwal should have plenty of opportunities to do what he does best — shoot — playing alongside a gifted passer in not only Ingram, but also four-star point guard Isa Silva, another top 100 player in the nation. “I am really looking forward to playing with them,” he said.
“They are two of the most unselfish players in the country and two of the best players as well. They are able to play make phenomenally and with me helping to spread the floor I think that we would make a great team.”
Although that won’t be for another two years, given his 2022 graduation date, Agarwal isn’t going to waste any time. “I want to continue getting better and better and ready for college. I’ll be in the gym probably more than ever with my trainers and by myself.”
But for now he’s turning his focus to his upcoming senior year. It will serve as a redemption tour for Agarwal and the Coppell Cowboys, whose season ended prematurely the last two years. “We had too much potential to lose in the second round,” he said.
Playing alongside fellow four-star recruit Anthony Black, who together form one of the nation’s most deadly duos, Agarwal has high hopes for next season. “[Our] end goal is to make a deep run in the playoffs and hopefully win states.”
But Agarwal, who lost a year of his high school experience due to the coronavirus pandemic, also wants to have fun his senior year. “I’m going to enjoy the game like I did when I was a little kid first starting to play.”
It was around this time, when Agarwal was about eight or nine years old, his passion and seriousness for basketball first took off — and he credits his older sister for that.
“She kinda introduced me to the whole thing.”
“I wasn’t too serious about the game,” Agarwal said. But his interest grew after sitting in the stands of his sister’s varsity basketball games. “She helped inspire me to be on varsity one day when I grow up and make an impact on the team.”
Off the court, Agarwal is just like any other typical high schooler. He loves to listen to Lil Baby and Gunna, watch Netflix, and hang with “Day-1’s.” He’s even just like any other South Asian high schooler, able to understand the language of his parents [Hindi and Tamil], but unable to speak it.
That’s not to get it twisted, however. His heritage means everything to him. Because for Agarwal the journey goes beyond just himself. While the 4-star signee ultimately has dreams of playing in the NBA, he’s not only doing it for himself. He wants to inspire a community of kids that look just like him. A community of people that might never have thought they were athletic enough to play at the next level.
He’s doing it for the culture.
And that’s different.
Indian Basketball player Amjyot Singh enters 2017 NBA G League Draft (October 23, 2017)
Will India’s Satnam Singh succeed in the NBA? (July 4, 2015)
Satnam Singh Bhamara drafted by the Dallas Mavericks (June 26, 2015)
Sacramento Kings sign Indo-Canadian center Sim Bhullar to a contract (August 15, 2014)