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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Rice's Arsalan Kazemi can't play for Iran

By Diamond Leung

Ever try reading up on college basketball in Farsi? It's not easy, but thanks to the translation provided by FIBA Asia, we have some information to provide.

Rice forward Arsalan Kazemi, the top rebounder in Conference USA who is believed to be the first Iranian-born Division I scholarship player, will not be able to represent Iran in next month's FIBA Asia Championship in China. The event serves as an Olympic qualifier for Iran, but Kazemi was apparently unable to receive permission to play because of time conflicts with school.

From the story:
The 19-year-old who averaged 12 points and 7.4 rebounds for Iran in the 2010 FIBA World Championship -- second in contribution only to Iran’s only NBA player Hamed Haddadi -- will "sacrifice" the opportunity to play for the National Team for his "very important classes" as he pursues his studies in the Rice University (US).

"The 26th FIBA Asia Championship interferes with my classes. And I can't miss my classes for long," Kazemi recently told Iranian news agency ISNA.

"I did try persuading the college officials to let me play, but unfortunately they didn't give permission. Of course, I am very disappointed," he said.

Kazemi has mixed feelings about not being able to represent his country, and it's too bad things didn't work out for someone who has national pride and also dreamed of playing in the United States.

This spring, Kazemi was awarded the United States Basketball Writers Association's Most Courageous Award at the Final Four for enduring in order to play college basketball.
After his arrival at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, three U.S. officials questioned Kazemi for six hours. They doubted him when he told them he had flown to the U. S. to play basketball.

"I'm not a terrorist," he told them. "If you don't believe me, deport me."

College basketball players across the country have played in the FIBA World Championships and the World University Games overseas, but those events don't clash with school in the fall. And at a top academic institution like Rice, class time is important.

The 6-foot-7 Kazemi has represented Rice well, averaging a double-double (15.2 points and 11 rebounds) to lead the Owls in both categories. It would have been a nice experience for him to represent both the school and Iran overseas. But the timing of the tournament, which will be held Sept. 15-25 in Wuhan, just didn't allow it to happen.