Ryan Agarwal


Credit: Charles Mays

In 2015, Sim Bhullar and Satnam Singh both made history by becoming the first players of Indian descent to suit up in an NBA game. The game of basketball has continued to evolve as a global sport with players from various backgrounds competing as early as the grassroots level. Enter Ryan Agarwal, a first-generation American with Indian-born parents. Residing around the DFW area that is budding with basketball talent, the 6’7 forward has gained national recognition from scouting services and rankings, earning a collection of high major and Ivy League offers before committing to his dream school, Stanford University, in March.

In addition to being a high-level shooter, Agarwal possesses a strong basketball IQ and a game that meshes well in ball-moving and floor-spacing offensive systems. Having played with his independent AAU team 3D Empire (TX) since he was in middle school, Agarwal took what’s now become more of an unconventional path as top high school players now typically suit up for sneaker-affiliated AAU programs. However, investing in the culture at 3D Empire that Coach Shawn Ward built has certainly paid off as he and five-star teammate Anthony Black led the team to wins over numerous top tier teams, ultimately emerging victorious in The Circuit Championship to cap off their AAU careers. Before he heads to Stanford in the fall of 2022, Agarwal is focused on continuing to work on getting stronger and elevating his athleticism.

As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Agarwal reflected on his unique basketball journey and experiences with 3D Empire, what he’s looking forward to at Stanford, extending the path paved by South Asian basketball players to inspire the next generation, and much more.


For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Stanford commit Ryan Agarwal, from Coppell, Texas:


Pro Insight: Can you share a bit about your background?


Ryan Agarwal: Yeah for sure. I’m class of 2022. I’m committed to Stanford to play so I still got my senior year to go and then I’m heading out there. I play for my AAU team called 3D Empire (TX) and I play at Coppell High School (TX). I just love the game of basketball. I’m Indian so I’m a little bit different in the sense that you don’t see a lot of Indian players in the basketball community so I’m trying to make a little bit of a change in that scenario. And in that category too, kind of bring more diversity to what the game already has, even though it already has so much. Just continuing to hoop is really my dream and get as far as I can in the game. That’s pretty much all about me.


PI: How did you get to where you are today?


RA: So when I was in the third grade is when I started playing really competitive basketball. My parents were— I gotta give a lot of credit to them because with them being from India, a lot of parents don’t let their kids try a bunch of different sports. But my parents were really big on me trying every single sport and just following what I loved. So my sister played basketball and she’s like seven years older than me so she kinda set a little bit of like “okay, we’re playing basketball in our family” and so my parents put me in every sport possible: flag football, baseball, swimming, all of it. And they just kind of wanted to see which one I liked and I ended up liking basketball a lot. So when third grade came around, I started playing some AAU ball, so more competitive rather than just YMCA and I started getting more involved. And then middle school came around and I was playing for my school team. In 7th grade was when I switched over to my AAU program now, which is called 3D Empire and then ever since then, I started to get better and better as the years went on. And my freshman going into my sophomore year, I put a lot of work in and I got a lot of national recognition, more like college recognition and that put me on the radar for a lot of college scouts so that’s where I blew up in that scenario about trying to get to the next level, which my goal really going into high school was just to make JV as a freshman. That was my goal and then I made varsity as a freshman and then it just excelled from there. My sophomore year going into my junior year, that was when I picked up a lot of my offers. That whole year was when I was getting a lot of national recognition from Pangos camps, camps in Dallas, AAU circuits, school ball, all that stuff. So it helped me out with the college recruitment. Now recently, more a little bit on the NBA side of things too.


PI: It’s certainly gratifying to have your parents support you and provide opportunities for whatever you want to pursue.


RA: Exactly, it was definitely a blessing. I mean my sister and my brother also played sports. They’re both seven, eight years older than me so they’re way older than me. My brother actually played football in middle school. He got injured so he didn’t end up playing anymore, but my sister was playing [basketball] all the way through high school. She didn’t want to keep playing in college, but I think her playing and going through the AAU thing and everything helped my parents a little bit more understand as I got into it. I think they learned more and more about it over time so they were introduced to it by my sister so it helped out when I got in.


PI: How tall are your parents?


RA: So believe it or not, my brother is about the tallest one in the family [besides me] and he’s about 5’10, 5’11 ish. And my dad is about 5’8 and my mom is about 5’6 and my sister is like 5’1 so my whole family, no one is in the six foot [range] or anything so I’m just kinda taller than everyone in the family so it’s kinda weird. But yeah, they’re not too tall, at all.


PI: It definitely feels nice to be the tallest in the family.


RA: It helps me a lot. In the game of basketball, it doesn’t hurt to be 6’6 (laughs).


PI: What are your current measurements?


RA: My height is about 6’6, 6’7-ish. Weight, I was about 155 pounds, two and a half months ago, but I’m around 170, 175-ish pounds now. Kinda trying to increase before I get to college because college is a whole different level so continue to increase that. Been trying to stay on the right path for that. Wingspan, I haven’t measured in a while, so I’m not totally sure. And my shoe size is size 15.


PI: Do you have a specific weight goal you are aiming for before college?


RA: Yeah, around 185 and 195 pounds, somewhere in between there. I got a nutritionist so I’m on a good plan right now. Now that I’m committed, the good thing about that is I get to talk to a lot of coaches at Stanford and understand what they want me to…like I get a head start on what to work on and everything. I’ve talked to the strength and agility coaches there and he’s told me some goals to set so linking him with me and linking my nutritionist with me, I’m able to get on that path and continue doing so. So far I’m on the right path and trying to get to that 185, 195 range before I get there and I think I’ll be in a good spot to play early on.


PI: For those that aren’t super familiar with your game — what are your greatest strengths?


RA: So I’d say on the offensive end, a lot of people know me as a shooter, but coming to Stanford what the coaches want me to do and also I feel like I bring to the AAU and high school game now is being able to make the right play, make the extra pass, just be a good passer in general. I think I’m an underrated passer in that sense. Shooting the ball and making plays too. I’m still trying to work on putting the ball on the ground a little bit more and getting past defenders one-on-one with the ball in my hands, but I think I still have that in my bag a little bit more than people think. And defensively, being long and lanky I feel like I can get into the [passing] lanes pretty easily off-ball. And also rebounding, I think I’ve done a lot better job in the last couple years in rebounding and actually putting myself out there to get the ball rather than expecting my teammates or my big man to go get it.


PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?


RA: I think one of the things that comes with strength and agility is my defensive side of things such as staying in front of the ball. I think I’ve done a much better job than I have in the past and I want to keep getting better and better at it. And also just making plays with the ball in my hands, just getting past a defender one-on-one. Scoring with as little dribbles as possible so that’s kind of what I’m working on.


PI: Who do you model your game after and try to study on film?


RA: So I love watching Kevin Durant. He’s one of my favorite players to watch. He’s like one of the best players on the planet right now and of all-time, but I’ve kind of modeled my game after him in the sense of like body build and play style. But also another guy is Brandon Ingram, just the way he plays and the way he gets his shots off. And a little bit of Jayson Tatum, too. I like watching both of them play in the sense that both of them use their length to get past defenders and use that side-to-side to bait the defenders, get past them, and get their shots with a little bit of fade in their shots. I enjoy watching all of them play.


PI: Over the summer, you were selected to the Pangos All-American Camp. How was that experience?


RA: It was really amazing. You got to play against the top players in the country and with COVID and everything, it was kind of the first time in a while that I’ve been to a camp with such great players and a lot of the camps I was going to was a lot of the players in Dallas and I finally I was able to get on the national circuit and get a feel for the players across the country. So that was super fun to play and super fun staying in the hotel and getting all the gear and all that stuff. Super cool but camp ball is camp ball so there’s going to be a lot of ‘me-ball’ and all that, but I think the good thing about that camp was there was a lot of scouts and the people that were picking for the top-30, top-60 game didn’t really focus on most points or that. They kinda recognized who plays the right way and I think that was a big deal because a lot of people just try to score as many points as they can to get into the top game and try to show off. But really it’s all about who’s making the right play, which will translate to the next levels. I think that was a big part.


PI: Who did you enjoy playing with on your Pangos squad?


RA: Yeah, I enjoyed playing with Jaxon [Kohler]. He’s from Utah. He’s a big man. He’s about 6’8 ish. He’s extremely good. Super fundamental. His game is next level in the sense that many people can’t guard him no matter how big they are. It was extremely fun to play with him in the pick-and-roll scenario or just feeding it inside to him and kicking it back out. It’s always fun to see him go to work and I really enjoyed him play. And also Dereck Lively, he’s around 7 feet. He committed to Duke. He was just a freakish athlete. It was insane. I could just throw the ball anywhere and he would go grab it. He would never lose the ball. Both of them were really fun to play with and I’d love to do it again sometime.


PI: How would you describe your experience with 3D Empire?


RA: It’s been phenomenal. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be a part of. With us being an independent team, a lot of people just underrate us. I wouldn’t want it any other way because it’s always good to be the underdog and end up beating the teams that are known and everything. There are people that may say “oh it sucks that you have to pay for this and all that and you’re not sponsored,” but at the end of the day, if I’m getting the right recognition that I want and we’re beating teams that are shoe teams, it’s really not a big deal at all. The team that I play for, the reason I love playing with them is because our chemistry is what makes us. We may not have the biggest, tallest, most athletic guys, but the reason we’re ranked 10th or whatever in the country, beating a lot of these top teams in the country is because our chemistry is on a different level and we move the ball super well. It’s like every other game, a different person is scoring more. Everyone is eating so that’s why I think our team is next level. We share the ball super well which is what a lot of AAU teams struggle with, and I think that’s what has made us so successful. The development side of things at 3D Empire is also next level. I never even used to shoot threes when I walked into 3D so Coach Shawn and the whole staff at 3D would get mad at me. Not really mad but would encourage me to shoot threes and would really honestly get mad if I didn’t shoot threes when I was open and I would try to go in for a layup and they would be like “why would you not shoot that?” They want you to get into rhythm. Say you make two, they want you to come down, get into rhythm, and shoot another one. It’s all about playing freely and playing in a flow so that’s a huge part about the whole program.


PI: What’s it been like playing with your teammate Anthony Black?


RA: It’s huge. There’s nothing really better than having a 6’6 point guard. He sees the whole floor so if you’re open, he knows. He’s really good at attacking the basket so he draws in the defense a lot of the time, which opens up for me and if I’m able to shoot the ball really well, then it opens up the lane for him so we complement each other. We’ve been playing together since seventh grade in middle school ball and we play basically year round with school ball and AAU so we have that chemistry on level 100. I enjoy playing with him a lot and it’s super fun. Off the court, I was just with him earlier today getting some treatment and so we’re with each other almost all the time whether it’s driving to practice, driving to school, seeing each other at school, wherever it may be. We’re kinda always together so it’s super fun. It’s next level to have a friend that you play with year round so it just helps a lot.


PI: Congratulations on your commitment. What stood out for you in Stanford?


RA: Yeah, so Stanford was always a dream school. I think for a lot of people it’s just a dream school. It’s always seen as one of those schools that’s just so high up there. For me, I always thought it was an unreachable school. I was never really thinking early on I was going to play basketball in college. And then when it kind of got in my head that I was able to play, I still didn’t even think Stanford, it being a high major school so top of the line. I still didn’t even think so kind of when I started getting to talk to them and everything, Stanford was always my dream school, but to me I wasn’t going to pick it just to pick it. I still want to go through and make sure everything is good. So it being Stanford University number one and then after that, every box was just checked that I had any questions about. The fact that the coaching staff recruited me about a year and a half before they even offered me number one. So they were consistently talking to me and continued to talk to me through COVID and then they offered me and continued to talk to me a lot. I had a good relationship with Coach Haase and Coach Cohen. I already had gone on a visit before COVID so that was kind of already set. The fact that I was on campus and got to see everything. I got to watch a practice. I went over to Coach Haase’s house to have dinner with the team. I was able to do all of that before COVID even hit so that was an even bigger check mark. The playstyle is kind of how I play. They utilize shooters. They spread the floor. They move the ball well. They play good defense. They play fast. That’s another thing that checked the box. The campus itself was super nice. And the education side of things obviously checked the box off, too. It was kind of just like every box was checked off. For me, location was not a factor at all in my recruitment so that had nothing to do with my decision-making at all. It was kind of just like the relationship with the coaching staff and the development side of things. Seeing that they have sent some players to the league in the last couple of years with this coaching staff and I had watched a couple of their practices to see what they do, every box was checked off. Additionally, Harrison Ingram and Isa (Silva) who are a grade above me are going and both are like the most unselfish players you’ll ever see play the game. Harrison is in the Dallas area. I’m really good friends with him so it just all kind of worked out in the sense that I knew people going, the play style of players they were recruiting and everything was just kind of in line. So there was no reason for me to wait, because I don’t think any other school would have offered anything better.


PI: Is there anyone in particular you are looking forward to playing with at Stanford (assuming everyone who is eligible returns)?


RA: I’m looking forward to playing with Harrison and Isa. Harrison obviously has a chance to go pro — all the players do. Harrison has a chance to go one-and-done if he really performs well. Obviously, I wouldn’t mind if he stayed another year so I could play with him. Either way, I think he’s gonna go to the league at one point so either way it works out for me, you could say. So obviously I would want him to stay another year and play with him but if he goes one-and-done, that’s obviously phenomenal. Yeah I’m looking forward to playing with him. Isa is obviously great. I haven’t seen him play in person but from what I have seen of some clips, all that stuff, he’s obviously amazing at reading the floor and making the right plays and facilitating and everything so I’m looking forward to playing with him and also just the players that are already at Stanford. Some of them are going to be seniors when I’m there or even fifth-year seniors. Whoever it is, I’m just excited to play and meet players when I go there.


PI: What are you most looking forward to about Stanford outside of basketball?


RA: Just meeting new people. I feel like if you go around Stanford and you just meet someone new, the chances of them being a multi-billionaire company owner or part of it is pretty high at Stanford. The cool thing about Stanford is that your freshman year they actually want you to room with someone other than the basketball side of things. My freshman year, whoever goes there for sports, their freshman year, they gotta stay with someone outside of basketball. I could be staying with a football player or lacrosse player, swimmer or even someone who is just there for school, itself. Whoever it is, I’m excited to meet new people and get outside the basketball bubble because if I was to go meet someone new, the chances that they are going to be super successful at life and say basketball doesn’t work out and I need something to fall back on, if I have a friend that’s somewhere or some company that can help me out, that’s obviously extremely great. That’s what I’m looking forward to — to meeting new people and getting the new idea of a different world out there.


PI: What do you plan to study?


RA: So the cool thing about Stanford is that you don’t have to major anything your first two years, but I’m kind of edging towards business as of right now just because my dad and my brother are both actually in the business side of things. I’ve seen their lifestyle and just kind of doing what they do. It’s a little bit calmer. My sister is doing med school right now and I see the grind that she’s going through and I’m just like “I could not do that.” I’m not dedicated to do 10-12 hours of studying everyday. I think what my brother and my dad are doing is kind of what I’m looking forward to pushing toward as of right now. The first two years, I’m definitely going to key in and try to understand everything to get a good idea of what I want to do in life.


PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?


RA: Obviously to put on weight and get stronger in that sense of things. Next year, I want to get stronger, more athletic, more agile, but also in the game for our school, we actually haven’t made it past the second round of playoffs for about 18, 19 years now so our main goal just as a whole school team is to get past the second round, if not make state. That’s a big goal for us to make a good, long run in the playoffs and get as far as we can.


PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?


RA: Like I said, business is one of the things, but I also always wanted to be a sports commentator or something like that — like an ESPN analyst, or something, because I just love sports so much that I would love to be in the world of sports my whole life and that would be my job. I would love to wake up and be on TNT with Shaq and all of them talking about the NBA and everything. Whatever it is, if it is business that would be great obviously, too, because I get to meet new people, make new relationships, learn about the business world itself. If I’m in sports, that would be amazing, too, because I’m already in sports so much and I would just love to continue doing that and let that continue to be a part of my life.


PI: Sim Bhullar, Satnam Singh, Princepal Singh, and Amjyot Singh are a few of the notable Indian players who have pursued the NBA. What impact do you want to make as someone from South Asian descent in basketball?


RA: I want to make it to the league — that’s the goal, for sure. Sim Bhullar and Satnam Singh made it to the league, but they weren’t able to play a lot of games in the league. Satnam Singh I don’t think had a minute in the NBA. He went straight to the G-League. Sim Bhullar did play a little bit, but I want to be one that goes into the league, plays for years, and makes an impact on the team and helps them win games. Those guys were obviously really good the fact that they did make it all the way to the league and to be a part of those teams, but I’m trying to do a little bit more than get into the league. The followers I have right now and the fanbase I have right now, they are huge supporters and it is kind of who I’m doing it for so I just want to continue doing it and continue to try to be great.


PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’


RA: I think success is a lot of things, but it is nothing that can be taken for granted in the sense that I can’t take success as a stopping point or end point for me and be complacent about success. If that’s what ends up happening, then you don’t get to a lot of places if you just succeed because you’re going to have a lot of small successful parts on the whole journey. If you just stopped at every single one and where you’re celebrating it all the time, you’re not going to get really far because you’re just spending too much time on that one successful moment. Obviously, you’ve got to enjoy successful moments and understand it’s a good part and you should want those moments, but you can’t just let it be the only moment in your life and spend all that time on it. My success would be to have a good career in the NBA and if I got to that point, then I could say “yeah I can celebrate this.” I can’t just celebrate and say I’m going to college when my goal is the NBA. I can’t just celebrate “oh we made a good run in the playoffs” if I’m trying to play well in college. There’s short term successful moments in which you can celebrate in the short term, but you can’t linger on them for a long time and forget about your future and the next successful moments that you want to pursue.


PI: Who’s someone you really look up to?


RA: Someone I look up to…like I said, those NBA players are who I model my game after. Those are kind of the guys that I look up to in a sense of how to play the game, but look up to as a guy, there isn’t really anyone I just aspire to be because I’m trying to be different in the sense of the game, just my own self. So I’m not just trying to be a Brandon Ingram or a KD. I want to be my own player, but I look up to those guys and model parts of my game after them. Those are some of the guys that I look up to in that sense, but overall as a certain player or a certain person, I wouldn’t say I have one because I want to be different in my own way if that makes sense.


PI: Any role models who have been influential in your journey?


RA: Yeah, for sure. Coach Shawn from 3D Empire was one of my biggest— I’d say changed my whole career in basketball itself because not only did he have that confidence for me to shoot the ball, play with the ball or elevate my game to the next level, but also he was able to put me on a platform to go play college ball. I started on the B team for 3D when I first came in seventh grade. Obviously back then I was like “why am I on the B team?” and all that stuff, but now I’m so glad that I was on the B team because it built my confidence up to go play with the elite team that I am on now, and be one of the top scorers and shooters in the country. He put me on that right path to get me there and I would say because of him, he’s one of the main reasons I am here today, to go play on a platform that I’m playing right now and will be playing on in two years. He’s one of the big ones for sure and my parents too, the fact that they allowed me to play the sport and introduced me to all the sports at a young age, they impacted my life greatly. Because if they weren’t so supportive, I don’t know where I would be right now. Thanks to them I was able to have basketball be one of the biggest parts of my life.


PI: Name four words that best describe you.


RA: I would say one is when I’m with my friends and stuff, I’m just a goofy dude. When I’m with my friends and just chilling, it’s not really anything about basketball. It’s just a whole other world, just relaxing and hanging out with my friends. Just outside of me is goofy. I make TikToks and all that stuff. In the game of basketball, I’d say one is different. Different being Indian and being a different player than a lot of players. Goofy. Different. I’d say another one is determined. Just determined to make it as far as I can. I feel like I’ve already gone further than what I expected, so I just want to continue pushing my limits and continue pushing further than what I thought I could get to, determined to get to the furthest part in basketball as I can. And my last word, I’d probably say just persistent, just because I’m determined to do things in life, but persistent in the sense that I push past obstacles that are in the way. Obviously being Indian, there’s obstacles with that, but also the part of being skinnier than some guys, being shorter than some guys even though I’m 6’7, but there’s a lot of tall guys out there. Different stuff like that persistent-wise, playing the game through injuries or whatever it may be. Being able to push through some of those obstacles and stuff in the way to get to where I want to be, so I’d say those four words: Goofy, Different, Determined, Persistent.


PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?


RA: Just inspiring kids to play the game no matter who they are. If they love the game, just wanting to play. A lot of kids think that “oh, I’m short, or I’m just not physically built to play the game of basketball.” But honestly if you play and you just put in the work, I think you do. I have a teammate named Devank, he’s probably like 5’6, maybe 5’7. Small Indian kid. People look at him like “man he can’t play and all that stuff.” He was on varsity as a sophomore and he was playing on our elite team. He’s an extremely good shooter. He was second team all-district as a junior. Probably going to be on the first team all-district this year. He’s extremely good and helps us win as much as anyone on the team helps us win. So I’d just say like him too, he’s someone I look up to, but just to help people understand that they can play through any circumstances if they put their mind to it, put their time towards it and really work for it. I just want to inspire people to play and just have fun playing and know that they can get to the next level no matter what, whoever they are. That’s kind of what I want to leave after I’m done playing the game of basketball.

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