FORMER national coach Rajko Toroman expects Iran to be a force to reckon with in the coming Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship as he pointed to the presence of Arsalan Kazemi – the first-ever Iranian to be drafted in the NBA.
Toroman admits being impressed with Kazemi’s athleticism and good perimeter shooting during the time he worked with the player as part of Iran’s 17-and-under team.
“I was working with him when he was still part of the 17-and-under national team,” Toroman, the former head coach of the Iran national squad, recalled to Spin.ph. “He’s very athletic who can play the power forward position and can dunk like crazy.”
Toroman said Gilas Pilipinas and the rest of the Fiba-Asia field can expect the 23-year-old Kazemi to do a far, greater damage during the August 1-11 qualifying tournament to next year’s World Basketball Championship following the training he received while suiting up for Rice University in Houston, Texas, before seeing action for University of Oregon in 2012-2013.
Picked 54th overall by the Washington Wizards during Friday’s NBA Draft before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, Kazemi averaged 12 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.8 steals for Iran during the 2010 Fiba-World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
“Kazemi is known also as a good shooter, especially in the three-point area. But he can also play with his back to the basket. Definitely a dangerous player to watch for Iran in Fiba-Asia,” noted the Serbian coach, who saw Kazemi play in the 2011 Fiba-Asia meet in Wuhan, China where he guided Smart Gilas to a fourth place finish.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes acknowledged the impact Kazemi brings to the Iran national team along with prolific veteran small forward Samad Bahrami through his Twitter account @coachot.
“Great, dangerous combo w Bahrami at d 3/4 spot,” said Reyes, who hopes to steer the country back to the world championships with a top-three finish in the Fiba-Asia cage joust.
Good thing Iran is not grouped with Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba-Asia preliminary rounds.
The two-time Asian champions are bunched with defending champion China, South Korea, and Malaysia in Group C, while Gilas is bracketed in Group A alongside 2011 Fiba-Asia runner up Jordan, Chinese-Taipei, and Saudi Arabia.
Toroman coached the Iran national team during the 2007 Fiba-Asia edition in Tokushima,Japan, leading the Iranians to their first-ever Asian title en route to earning an berth in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.