COLLEGE PARK -- Whenever he would get the ball with space around him, the crowd at XFINITY Center in College Park would implore him to shoot it. Now, there are not those cheers when a pass gets throw his way because he enters closer games, playing more meaningful minutes.
There is only the loud, drawn-out, low-toned sound of his name echoing inside the arena when he makes a big play. If you weren't familiar with the exercise, you would think the pro-Maryland crowd were booing.
This marks Varun Ram’s transition from beloved walk-on who everyone just wanted to see make a shot when the game was already in hand to key part of the rotation for a team with national title hopes.
Well, there are still those rises from the crowd occasionally -- even one on Saturday against Ohio State when he calmly knocked down a three-pointer in Maryland’s 100-65 win over the Buckeyes.
But as head coach Mark Turgeon tinkered with his lineup early here in conference play, he came to a realization this week.
“I learned that Varun is pretty important to us and he can really help us,” Turgeon said. “Gives us another really good defender on the floor, takes more pressure off Melo [Trimble]. Rasheed [Sulaimon] goes out, you still have a really good defender on the floor.”
Though he stands just 5-9, the neurobiology and physiology major skitters around the floor almost weightlessly. What he gives up in size, he makes up for in relentlessness and effort.
Sulaimon, who sees Ram in practice every day, described it.
“Even if you beat him, you might think you beat him and then before you know it, he’s right back on top of you,” he said. “It’s just that constant pressure and he’ll wear you out over the course of a game.”
What has become of Maryland’s backcourt bench rotation is something you might see more in football with running backs, wide receivers, or tight ends. Depending on what the Terrapins need, Turgeon will either insert Ram for defensive purposes or transfer Jaylen Brantley if they need an offensive boost behind Trimble and Sulaimon.
The last two games, that has meant more minutes for Ram, though Brantley came in and played well in the final minutes of Saturday’s win.
“I think it just shows you how deep our team is and how we can go so many different ways,” Ram said this week.
“We can go big, we can go small, offensively, defensively we’re so versatile. And I think that’s what that shows. I haven’t really played all season and I played the last two games decent minutes so I’m ready to play whether I don’t play or not I just want to win.”