While many college basketball players dream of a career in the NBA, Trojan forward Samer Dhillon dreams of changing the face of Wall Street.
The 21-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch walk-on senior is already a self-made businessman and federally licensed investment advisor at Quest Investment, the wealth management firm he started in 2014. Launched with $1,000 in personal savings, the company now oversees a $5.2 million portfolio for 42 clients and employs seven people.
His day usually starts at 6 a.m. with a close read of the financial news. Then the human biology major is off to classes before hitting the Galen Center for four hours of practice with the men’s basketball team. Later, he can often be found at the Health Sciences Campus, where he works under brain scientist Judy Pa at the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, studying the cognitive benefits of exercise on Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Dhillon’s other dream is to be a doctor. A summer shadowing neurosurgeon Charles Liu at the Keck School of Medicine of USC solidified that ambition.
“It’s cool to me to help people out in different facets—with both their investments and their health,” he says.
I want to teach athletes to be self-sufficient.
Born and raised in Sacramento, Dhillon had parents who instilled the value of hard work. His father had come from India with less than $50 in his pocket, picking peaches on Central Valley farms until he earned enough to buy his own business. His mom also worked hard, starting a family while putting herself through college to become an electrical engineer.
Math and science always came naturally to Dhillon. English took a little longer. His first language was Punjabi, which he still uses to speak to his grandparents. He was also scrawny in high school—“the nerdy kid with glasses,” as he remembers.
By the time he graduated, he had morphed into student body president, class valedictorian and captain of the varsity basketball team. Thanks to an 8-inch growth spurt, Dhillon went from bench warmer to MVP his senior year—and also earned an invitation to play at USC.
As a walk-on, Dhillon doesn’t see much game action. Last season he played all of 8 minutes and made the only shot he took. But he works hard, goes to practice up to six days a week, and suits up for every game.
Off the court, he helps teammates with finances and balancing their checkbooks.
“I’m a student-athlete myself,” he says. “I see the lifestyle they all want to live. But 78 percent of athletes go broke after they turn pro.” Dhillon hopes to break that pattern. “I want to teach athletes to be self-sufficient,” he says.
He cares about helping others. Last year his nonprofit, Deep Roots Foundation, gave $40,000 in scholarships to disadvantaged Central Valley student-athletes. At USC, he co-founded a mobile health clinic that sees patients at the Pathways to Home homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles.
Next up? He’s studying for medical school admission exams and will return to USC in 2017 as a fifth-year senior to complete minors in business entrepreneurship and occupational therapy.
It’s a lot to juggle, but he wouldn’t have it any other way: “I’m an adrenaline junkie. If you’re not pushing, you’re not living.”