USC basketball player Sam Dhillon has game.
Lots of game. Much more than his Trojans team right now as it tries to figure out how to get back on track after losing five of its last six.
But basketball is just one part of the life of the 6-foot-8 junior from Sacramento who we can say with some certainty now will be the lone Trojan to make the trip to this year's Final Four in Houston.
There he'll be one of the National Association of Basketball Coaches five-man Good Works Team -- and the only junior -- to be honored at the NABC convention after "having demonstrated a commitment to enriching the lives of others and contributing to the greater good in their communities."
Sounds good, right? But that's not the half of it. A 3.67 human biology major with a business entrepreneurship minor who plans to become a brain surgeon -- no, really -- and is currently doing Alzheimer's research in USC's School of Neuroscience at the Keck School of Medicine, Dhillon has already started his business career.
As if combining basketball with all the above wasn't enough, Sam is following in the footsteps of his father, Surjit, who came here with nothing more than a dream from India's Punjab state in 1979.
"He wanted to follow the American dream," Sam says. And now Sam is following in the footsteps of his father, a self-taught entrepreneur whose business interests include real estate, development, malls, gas stations and even a 30-acre vineyard
"Follow your dream," Sam says his dad told him. "With hard work, everything is possible."
So while his ability to practice medicine will have to wait until he gets through medical school, Sam's love of business hasn't had to. He's already passed his California investment adviser's exam and has started his own wealth management company for athletes.
You read that right. He's the CEO of his own company that has $3 million to manage right now -- with projections of $9 million by next year -- from its 34 clients including the first two NFL prospects he just signed up. He has a half-dozen investment account reps, a CPA, a lawyer, a tax adviser and three part-time employees working out of a modest 1,200-square-foot office on 38th Street.
"I love numbers . . . and I don't sleep a lot," Sam says with a wink at how "word of mouth" is helping him here. . . . "I do pretty good work."
No way he could sleep much doing all this.
Because we haven't gotten to one part of his life that's getting him to Houston. If the Alzheimer's research weren't enough, or the chance to go into surgery with USC's chief of neurosurgery, Dr. John Liu, hadn't gotten him an early start on his future career, Sam has been working with a group of volunteers -- students and doctors -- to set up USC Mobile Exams.
"We provide exams for the homeless," he says of the USC group that finds locations -- near campus at Pathways to the Homeless on 39th Street, downtown on skid row and in Inglewood -- where they can do health checkups for those most needing them.
With all that he's got going, why would he add one more thing to a schedule that has him sleeping four to five hours a night as it is?
"I want to help people," Sam says simply. He knows he's got a lot going for him thanks to his parents. His mom, Harjit, has an electrical engineering degree from San Jose State and nearly two decades with Hewlett-Packard.
He himself came out of Sacramento's Inderkum High School as valedictorian and student body president while averaging 13.6 points and 11 rebounds a game as team captain, leading the basketball team to its first conference title and a school record number of wins. And he was a two-time geography bee winner.
"Hard work," he says. Sam loves it. And USC, with a new coaching staff under Andy Enfield, was open to his many interests. "There's a big emphasis on entrepreneurship," he says. "And the connections have been great. Coach Enfield made it possible for me to work with Dr. Liu."
Which explains Sam's other activity that will have him at the Final Four as a member of the Allstate Good Works team -- his foundation. No, really, he has a foundation. So you probably didn't set up a foundation by your junior year in college? Well, Sam did.
His Deep Roots Foundation is a nonprofit whose focus is to give youth the "opportunities to become leaders of tomorrow by excelling in academics, athletics and community giving."
"These four things are a large part of my life," Sam says. "You can't live life without giving something back."
One of the few players of Indian ethnicity to play basketball at a Power Five conference school, Sam has played in 11 games in his USC career, five this season, scoring four points.
Why basketball? Why walk on with all the other things on his plate?
"My golf game needs work," he says with a grin. That will have to wait.
So for now, it's basketball. And his company. And his foundation. And setting up exams for the homeless. And his pre-med studies. And his Alzheimer's research.
And four to five hours sleep each night.
"There is no easy way," he says. "It's all hard work."
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