Different. Freshman Ryan Agarwal on representation, basketball and friendship

Sept. 25, 2022, 9:00 p.m.

Freshman forward Ryan Agarwal is no stranger to being different. Being one of the only Indian-American players on travel ball circuits growing up, Agarwal understands how rare it is to see Indian basketball players playing at the Division I level. In fact, “Different” was the title of his Stanford commitment video.

“We didn’t really have a lot of players that were Indian-American playing [Division I] basketball that we could all look up to,” Agarwal told the Daily. “In AAU travel ball, I didn’t see any Indians at all. Even in Texas, playing travel ball against other teams, I didn’t see a lot. It was just kind of on my own team if anything.”

Knowing the impact his representation could have pushes Agarwal to be greater on the court, but it doesn’t pressure him.

“Basketball is just kind of fun for me. I don’t really feel like it’s a burden on me,” Agarwal remarked. “Every time at the gym, it’s like ‘I’m here, I’m having fun. But now it’s time to put in some real work because I’m not just working for myself but for a whole heritage.’”

Beyond the technical aspects of basketball, Agarwal also enjoys the social side of being on a team. “I think what makes basketball special is that it’s not too big or not too small of a team,” Agarwal said. “It’s just the right amount for you to be close with everybody.” 

The diverse skill sets and physiques that basketball draws from also stick out to the 6-foot-7-inch sharpshooter from Dallas. “You don’t have to be the strongest, most physical player, and [can] still be good,” Agarwal said. “It’s a lot of different physiques and a lot of different people that are playing the game. It’s not just one type of player that can play.”

Agarwal chose the Stanford basketball program over the likes of Creighton, Oklahoma State and Harvard. He was impressed by the coaching staff’s ability to keep constant communication with him during the recruiting process, a remark that other Stanford basketball players have repeatedly noted. 

“Even during COVID time when they weren’t allowed to visit, they were still able to reach out and keep communication with me,” Agarwal said about Stanford’s coaches. “So I think that was a really big part of why I enjoyed the coaching staff and why I enjoyed building a relationship with them over other coaches.” 

Agarwal is not the only player from Texas on the Stanford roster, as star sophomore forward Harrison Ingram also hails from the Lone Star State. Although both Ingram and Agarwal knew each other in high school, their bond has gotten stronger since becoming teammates. 

“In Dallas we knew each other. Especially when we committed, we started getting to know each other more,” Agarwal said. “But now that we’re living together, doing stuff like that, I’m way closer to him now. I’m going to be with him 11 out of the 12 months, so that’s my brother.”

While Agarwal has found a home at The Farm off the court, he still has his sights set on doing the same on the court. The lengthy forward wants to use his shooting and IQ to make a positive impact for the Stanford men’s basketball team this upcoming season. 

“I’ve got to be an elite shooter. That’s what I’m here for,” Agarwal said. “I’m not going to ever be the strongest or fastest player on any court I step on. But using my IQ in coming off-ball screens, making the right reads, making the right passes and shooting the right shots is what I need to continue doing.”

But even before he steps foot on the court for the team’s season opener against San Diego State, Agarwal has inspired thousands of people across the world. “I have such a big support system of Indian-Americans and Indians in general that support me,” Agarwal said. “It’s amazing to see how many people support me and have my back.”

Kaushik Sampath is a desk editor for the sports section. He is a sophomore from Fayetteville, Arkansas, who's undecided on his major. You can catch him watching and ranting about his beloved Arkansas Razorbacks or hanging out with friends on campus. Contact him at sports 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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