Samer Dhillon: Basketball's Most Interesting Man

    Student-athlete Samer Dhillon at work in the lab.
    Dec. 8, 2015

    by Sarah Bergstrom

    Samer Dhillon is not your average college basketball player. In fact, he's hardly your average 20-year-old college student at all. This year, the 6-foot-8 USC men's basketball forward is making his case as the most interesting man in NCAA basketball. But Dhillon's aspirations extend far beyond the reach of even his diverse collegiate pursuits.

    To say it all started when Dhillon stepped foot on campus in Los Angeles wouldn't really be fair. Growing up as a smart and motivated kid in Sacramento, California, he was guided by one simple but passionate mantra: "If you want to succeed as bad you want to breathe then you will be successful." For Dhillon, this didn't mean pursuing success in just one field however. High school student body president and Valedictorian, he saw the world and all the opportunities post-graduation life presented as his for the taking.

    "When I think back I'm really just in complete and utter shock," explains Dhillon, now a junior at USC. "Two and a half years ago I was sitting in a high school classroom in Sacramento. Two and a half years later, with everything I'm doing, it's just hard to believe. "

    If Dhillon can hardly wrap his mind around his life, most people definitely won't be able to. In list form it sounds intimidating, and the details make it even more so. Where to begin?

    The junior runs his own investment advisory firm, Quest Investment Firm, worth an estimated three million dollars. He's pretty confident he's one of the youngest investment advisers/portfolio managers in United States history to own his own firm and nothing about the intensity with which he discusses his business suggests otherwise. The growth of his company in the last year has led to his nomination for the Top Wealth Manager Award of the Year in Los Angeles, a recognition the 20-year-old is honored to simply be in contention for.

    When he's not deciding how to best invest the money of his various clients, or directing his three employees in how to do the same, Dhillon is pouring equal amounts of efforts into his passion for the medical field. A neuroscience and pre-med major at USC, the junior spends 10 hours each week doing Alzheimers research at the Loni Institute of Neuroimagery at Keck Medical Center, studying the point at which things begin to go wrong for the human brain in aging.



    This fall, Dhillon added more to his plate, launching the first-ever mobile health clinic at USC in an effort to provide better healthcare options for underprivileged members of the local community. Working with doctors from Keck, Dhillon and several other pre-med students spend anywhere from eight to 12 hours each week educating patients and providing basic medical services. His vision for the clinic derived from his firm belief that all people deserve equal health care, regardless of background or social status. When Dhillon heard that UCLA had been operating a clinic for years, he set about to ensure USC would have one too.

    This summer, the never-stationary junior shadowed Keck's Chief of Neurosurgery in the operating room, watching surgeries on a weekly basis and getting a hands-on opportunity to see if neurosurgery was really the path he wanted to pursue. According to Dhillon, after watching a surgery in which a hole was drilled into a man's head, he had never been more certain about his career goals.

    Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Dhillon's multi-faceted life is that the thing he's most passionate about, playing college basketball, comes far down on this list of accomplishments. One of the first Indian basketball players to compete in a BCS conference, Dhillon absolutely loves being a member of the Trojan team. He's only played in nine games in his career, but the forward's contributions both on and off the court make everything worth it.

    "I want to keep our team together. I try and motivate them from the sidelines to be the best they can, and I also want to motivate them in school," explained Dhillon. "I try to study with my teammates and help them see their potential for a future after basketball. There's a big life after you finish these four years and I want them to be prepared. Whatever I can do to help my team be the greatest, that's what I want to do and that's what I see as my role."

    From the outside looking in, it may appear as if Dhillon easily excels in anything he sets his mind to. But for the wealth manager/basketball player/aspiring neurosurgeon he simply aims to squeeze everything he can out of each day he's given. Whether it's talking business with head coach Andy Enfield (a successful businessman himself), treating his teammates to an oceanside dinner in Malibu (limo included), or running around Disneyland like a 10-year-old kid, Dhillon wants to do it all.

    In the next two years, his goals include a Trojan berth in the NCAA tournament, graduating with close to a 4.0 and securing a spot in one of the best medical schools in the country. His vision doesn't stop there though. Dhillon wants to make the cover of Forbes magazine by age 28, become both a real estate mogul and neurosurgeon and travel the world.

    "I think that the way I'm wired," Dhillon laughed. "I want to do everything to the fullest. I want to be the best I can possibly be at everything."