Inderkum Grad Secures Walk-on Spot with USC Trojans

Sam Dhillon in front of The Trojan Shrine at USC. / Courtesy Photo

Sam Dhillon in front of The Trojan Shrine at USC. / Courtesy Photo

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Sam Dhillon was the big man on campus at Inderkum High School.


At 6-foot-8, he towered over his fellow classmates.

The former basketball captain for the Tigers also presided over the student body as ASB president and his 4.30 cumulative GPA earned him the honors as Class of 2013 valedictorian.

Dhillon started taking summer class this week at University of Southern California after accepting a walk-on position on the Trojans basketball team in late spring.

Walk-on players must be students at the university and have clearance from the head coach to participate in practices with the team. They do not receive athletic scholarships.

“It’s amazing,” Dhillon said over the phone from campus in Los Angeles, where he’s studying Human Performance. “The buzz about USC is awesome.”

The road to USC wasn’t an easy one.

Dhillon was also accepted to Pepperdine University, University of the Pacific and UCLA. Pepperdine and UOP also offered him the chance to walk-on, but no scholarships.

That didn’t deter Dhillon.

With his grades, extracurricular activities and height, Dhillon believed that by improving his basketball skills and losing weight, he could have a shot playing college basketball.

Starting in February Dhillon was up at 4 a.m. every day working out from 4:45 a.m. until 7 a.m. before school.

He lost more than 40 pounds over the past year and also spent hours working on his basketball game with help from Natomas High School head coach Brian Hamilton, who also runs the successful Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, “Play Hard, Play Smart” in the offseason.

Hamilton knows new USC assistant coach Tony Bland. Bland recruited former Sheldon High School players Dakari Allen and D’Erryl Williams at San Diego State before being he was hired at USC by new head coach Andy Enfield. Allen and Williams both played for Hamilton’s AAU team, with which Dhillon practiced. Dhillon also played two summer tournaments with the team in 2012.

“Play Hard, Play Smart helped me out a lot,” Dhillon said. “I played with them last summer and it helped my game immensely.”

Inderkum head coach Rodney Haymer is excited for Dhillon.

“Any time you get a player out of Inderkum to a program like USC, it’s big. Scholarship or not, it doesn’t matter,” Haymer said. “He has put in a lot of work and a lot of time in the gym.”

Dhillon does not know what his role will be on the USC basketball team, but that doesn’t bother him.

“I’ll see what happens and go from there,” he said.

USC finished the 2012-13 season with a 14-18 record under then-coach Kevin O’Neill, who was fired on Jan. 19.

Coach Enfield led little-known Florida Gulf Coast University to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament round of 16 before being hired by USC on April 1.

“He’s super cool,” Dhillon said. “(Enfield) is really calm and has a wealth of knowledge.”

Said Hamilton of Dhillon’s opportunity to play for Enfield at USC: “It was the right place at the right time. USC needed some big bodies. And with his grades and work ethic, they gave him a shot.”

His senior year Dhillon helped lead Inderkum to the program’s first Tri-County Conference championship in 2013 with an 18-10 overall record. He said beating neighborhood rival Natomas High in the regular season finale and then finding out the Tigers won the league title in the locker room was the highlight of his high school career.

“Being there with my teammates and celebrating together,” Dhillon said. “I will always remember that.”

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