One of the vital players of the Iranian Men's National Baketball Team, Arsalan Kazemi was reported to have begged off from playing in the 2011 William Jones Cup and the 26th FIBA Asia Championship 2011. The reason why he begged off has something to do with his academics at Rice University. He's a college varsity player at that school and probably he's trying to finish his schooling at a faster rate just like Kemba Walker. I have a feeling that he's doing this because he wants to try his luck in the NBA in the near future, but for now, let's just highlight how much value he puts in his academics.
Arsalan Kazemi was a very courageous person. Unlike his teammates in Iran, he took a different basketball route. He courageously went into the United States of America during his teenage years because he wanted to be the first Iranian to play in a Division 1 NCAA school. He had a golden chance to play for a High School team there and slowly but surely, his dream is becoming a reality. Luckily enough, Division 1 NCAA schools took notice of his 6'8 height and his innate basketball talent. Memphis, Syracuse, Louisville and Rice were some of the Universities that tried to recruit him but much to the surprise of many, it was Rice that got his attention. "It's good in academics and I can get more playing time there," that were the reasons why Arsalan chose Rice. His choice speaks volumes about the importance of education in his life. That probably is the reason why he begged off from playing for Iran in the Jones Cup 2011 and in the FIBA Asia Championship 2011.
My inference was true. Arsalan himself confirmed that the reason why he begged off from his participation was his academics and he can't fore-go it. He said that:
"The 26th FIBA Asia Championship interferes with my classes. And I can’t miss my classes for long. I did try persuading the college officials to let me play, but unfortunately they didn’t give permission. Of course, I am very disappointed. We (Iran NT) have some very important games to defend our back to back gold medals and also compete for a slot in the 2012 London Olympics, but unfortunately I can’t be a part of the team in this cause. But rest assured, playing for the Iranian National Team is more precious for me than anything else. But this time the circumstances are different.”
Iran will miss the important contributions of the 19-year old Arsalan. Last 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey he averaged 12 points and 7.4 rebounds. He's also a vital part of the player rotation of Iran but sadly, he won't be able to play for them this time due to his academics.
It's very rare to read something about a basketball player putting more premium on academics. The last time I read something like that was during the college days of one of my favorite basketball players, LA Tenorio. LA played for the Ateneo Blue Eagles during his college days and, Like Arsalan, he was also heavily recruited by other top Universities, but in the end, he chose Ateneo because of its good academic reputation. I clearly remember what he said back then, "You can never be good in basketball without first being good in academics. Basketball and academics are related." That statement of his influenced me a lot with regard to my approach in life especially with my academics. I had a well balanced college life because of LA. Up to now that has been one of my mantras. I gradually became a better person because of him. But to tell you honestly, I didn't expect that I will encounter a player like LA in Arsalan Kazemi. And so to Arsalan, good luck and thank you.
To those who want to hear Arsalan speak, here he is.
And here's what Iran will miss in their upcoming leagues. Just take a look at the shots of Arsalan.