Arsalan Kazemi ready to be high-energy contributor to 76ers

At Oregon, new Sixer Arsalan Kazemi became the first Duck named to the Pac-12's all-defensive team. Associated Press
At Oregon, new Sixer Arsalan Kazemi became the first Duck named to the Pac-12's all-defensive team. Associated Press
Posted: July 05, 2013

Arsalan Kazemi sat on the left side of the dais inside the 76ers' practice gymnasium. Sharply dressed in a dark gray suit, a blue-and-white shirt, and gray tie, Kazemi started out with a reserved look.

But occasionally during the news conference, he flashed a smile, displaying the joy that was 15 years in the making.

About 13 hours earlier - late last Thursday night - the former Oregon power forward became the first Iranian-born player drafted into the NBA when he was selected by the Wizards with the 54th overall pick. He was traded to the Sixers.

"I can't talk about it enough," Kazemi said of making history. "They [Iranians] are really excited, and this was my dream since 15 years ago. I get to [live out] my dream. And this keeps everyone else's dream alive back in not just my country but the region of the Middle East."

Set to begin practice Thursday for next week's Orlando Pro Summer League games, the 6-foot-7, 226-pounder has the potential to become a Sixers fan favorite.

A high-energy guy, Kazemi runs the floor well and is a defensive stopper. Last season, his only one at Oregon, he became the first Duck to be named to the Pac-12's all-defensive team.

Kazemi averaged 9.4 points, 10 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.4 assists en route to being named an all-Pac-12 honorable-mention player. The 23-year-old, who played his first three seasons at Rice, averaged 11.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.7 steals during his four-year college career.

"He went from one level of competition to another and continued to produce," said Sam Hinkie, the Sixers general manager. "He also produced internationally for his international team in a way that was impressive."

In 2011, Kazemi led Iran to an 8-1 record in the FIBA Asia Championships. Growing up, Kazemi, who has been in the Iran national team pool since the age of 13, dreamed of playing professionally in Europe.

If he makes the Sixers, it can be argued that Kazemi will soon live the American dream.

Pursuit of that dream led him to leave home in January 2008. He came to America with the intent of being the first Iranian-born player to earn a Division I scholarship.

Kazemi enrolled at the Paterson School, a boarding school in North Carolina, for the remainder of his junior year of high school. He then worked out with former NBA guard Nick Van Exel during spring break before hitting the AAU circuit.

One of his stops that summer was Philadelphia at the 2008 Reebok All-American Camp at Philadelphia University.

"To be honest, I wasn't sold at Reebok," ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep told the New York Daily News. "But once he got to the AAU tournaments in Vegas [in August 2008], you saw how competitive he was. Normally, guys who play that hard don't have talent. He's got talent."

As a senior at the Paterson School, Kazemi chose Rice over higher-profile programs Louisville, Syracuse, and Maryland.

But after three successful seasons, Kazemi left Rice's program in September 2012. After transferring to Oregon, he was granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA in order to play last season.

In March, reported, according to a document it obtained, that Kazemi alleged while at Rice that Owls athletic director Rick Greenspan "repeatedly made insulting and discriminating remarks to him, two fellow Middle Eastern players, and an assistant coach."

Greenspan denied the allegation. At the time, Kazemi declined to answer questions concerning the allegations.

However, he said he gained something basketball-wise by transferring to Oregon.

"The Pac-12 is a different competition level," Kazemi said. "I think that helped a lot because I got to play against better players and better competition."

Now, he gets a chance to show the Sixers he can contribute in the NBA.

"I'm sure that I can bring my energy to the team and bring my defensive ability to the team," Kazemi said. "Obviously, for a rookie, you want to get time a little bit. But it's just all about energy and playing defense. And then, the rest comes later."

Hawes fined. The NBA fined Sixers center Spencer Hawes $15,000 for playing in an unsanctioned alumni game at the University of Washington, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

According to the collective bargaining agreement, NBA players cannot take part in public offseason games before July 1 or after Sept. 15 without the league's approval.

Also fined for playing in the June 23 game were Memphis guards Quincy Pondexter and Tony Wroten and Sacramento guard Isaiah Thomas, according to the report.

Contact Keith Pompey at Follow on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers.

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