clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Now an Oregon Duck, Arsalan Kazemi has a lot to prove

Talent aside, Arsalan Kazemi's story is fascinating.

The first native Iranian to Division I college basketball, Kazemi is not only a pioneer, he's a pretty solid basketball player by all accounts.

But after three seasons of playing under dim lights, away from national television cameras and interested eyes, Kazemi has decided to take his talents to Eugene, Oregon, and become a Duck.

More importantly, he's decided to take his talents to a grander stage and see what it's like to play a college basketball season that brings with it a lot of pressure and attention.

At Rice, Kazemi posted impressive numbers. Last season's 12.1 points (while shooting over 60 percent from the floor) and 10.3 rebounds had many thinking he would be the main Conference USA Player of the Year candidate to beat entering the 2012-2013 season.

But all of that, remember, came at Rice; a program that went 19-16 (8-8) last season, and hasn't played in an NCAA Tournament game since 1970. Kazemi leaves behind a team and program that is in dire straits, as Rice has now lost six players from last year's team.

While he was Owl during the past three years, we've known about this intriguing story tucked away in an apathetic basketball school in Houston, knowing that, while it was cool the first Iranian person to play Division I basketball was no hack, it did little to answer if he was truly a great basketball player or half neat story, half decent game.

Now, at Oregon, we get to find out who the real Arsalan Kazemi is.

We get to see what it's like to face potential double teams from PAC-12 bodies, not Tulane. We get to see how he reacts to playing in a conference that just launched a shiny TV network, with ample opportunity for coast-to-coast exposure.

There's a ton more that needs to unfold before we measure the true impact of Kazemi as a college basketball player.

Simply stating that Oregon was "the best situation for me," Kazemi officially enrolled at the University of Oregon on Monday for the start of the Fall Quarter. That he will apply for a hardship waiver in an attempt to be eligible to play this season instead of sit out a year is sort of a clever opportunity for a joke. Yet, Kazemi's perceived talents come at the right time for Dana Altman's program.

After finishing second in the PAC-12 last season, but just missing out on the NCAA Tournament, it feels as though there's a certain cadence Altman is looking to build, and losing two of his top three scorers in Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim, and enigmatic but promising guard Jabari Brown will make that challenging.

Returning for the Ducks is senior E.J. Singler, and that's about it. There's a decent flow of prep talent coming in the next two seasons, but Kazemi is the coup for Oregon right now, meaning he'll at least be expected to be the on-court team leader once he's able to suit up and play.

Come to think of it, this challenge sounds strangely similar to what was presented to him while at Rice, only with more people watching.