#FIBAAsia2015 Contender Preview: Iran

Amidst all the controversy surrounding Gilas Pilipinas’s neutered roster and compressed preparations, the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, Hunan, China will commence in about a month’s time. 

While our boys struggle to find their form and improve their chemistry, many of our regional rivals are already neck-deep in their training. China and Japan recently wrapped up their European camps, while Iran and Lebanon are on the same continent playing tune-up games. Korea just concluded a series of games opposite Taiwan, and the two are set to butt heads again in the 2015 Jones Cup, which starts in about a week. 

Without a doubt, FIBA Asia is top-of-mind for many people now, and the intensity is only bound to increase as we inch closer to the opening of the competition. With just one outright slot to the 2016 Rio Olympics up for grabs, all sixteen nations participating are sure to pull out all the stops. 

Well, except maybe for our team, which, despite the fact they will play with as much #Puso as they possibly can, will probably reel from having a thin pool of talent and the shortest training time among all teams involved.

Still, in spite of these bumps on the road, the games will go on, and so must we. 

In this series of posts, I will look at each of the ten countries identified as contenders for the 2015 FIBA Asia title. 

In my previous post, I looked at a team that is hell-bent on reclaiming its place among the continent’s top teams, Japan. This time, I will focus on a perennial powerhouse and, perhaps, the consensus team-to-beat, Iran.


Current national pool:
Rouzbeh Arghavan - 7’1, 27 years old
Farid Aslani - 5’11, 27 years old
Behnam Yakhchali - 6’3, 20 years old
Mahdi Kamrani - 6’1, 33 years old
Saeid Davarpanah - 6’3, 27 years old
Arman Zangeneh - 6’9, 22 years old
Hamed Afagh - 6’3, 32 years old
Oshin Sahakian - 6’7, 29 years old
Asghar Kardoust - 6’11, 29 years old
Mohammad Jamshidi - 6’6, 24 years old
Samad Nikkhah Bahrami - 6’6, 32 years old
Hamed Haddadi - 7’2, 30 years old
Javad Davari - 6’1, 32 years old
Sajjad Mashayekhi - 5’11, 21 years old
Mohammad Hassanzadeh - 6’8, 24 years old
Aren Davoudi - 6’0, 29 years old
Meisam Mirzaei - 6’11, 23 years old
Hamed Hosseinzadeh - 6’2, 28 years old

Last major tournament: 
- Like most Asian teams, Iran’s last major tournament was the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. This was a huge tournament for Team Melli because, despite their success in FIBA Asai competitions, they’ve never won gold in the Asian Games. They finished third in 2006 and 2010, and so they were hoping to finally have a breakthrough i Incheon, especially after they won the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup quite handily and after just playing in the FIBA World Cup in Spain. For the first five games, things more or less went without a hitch. There was a scare against Gilas Pilipinas, but, by-and-large, Iran was living by their lofty billing, beating their foes by an average of 21.8 points. That’s why it was quite shocking that they nearly lost in the semifinals against a relatively unheralded Kazakh quintet, which pushed Iran to the limit but ultimately fell short, 78-80. The Iranians then proceeded to the gold medal game against the hometown favorites and long time rival, Korea. As expected, it was a nip-and-tuck affair before Moon Tae-Jong’s key free throws in the final minute completed the hosts’ late rally to clinch the gold medal. That second place finish by Iran is the highest in its Asian Games history.

Hamed Haddadi headlines an Iranian team favored to win the title.
(image by Nuki Sabio/FIBA Asia)

Current preparations:
- Iran played in the Atlas 8 Nations Cup earlier this year, finishing 2nd behind host China. They beat all the teams they played except for the Chinese, who drubbed them twice (68-64 in the elims and 54-47 in the Finals). Recently, Iran had a training camp in Germany, where they also played a couple of club teams. Now, they’re all set and ready for the William Jones Cup, where they have the biggest roster (in all manners of speaking), sending a team that’s 18-strong. With his core intact, coach Dirk Bauermann has all the tools to steer his team to victory. What I like about Iran is that they have a great mix of young guys and veterans. Six guys are under 25 and seven are 29 or older. 

Mahdi Kamrani is set to reprise his role as the team's top PG.
(image from FIBA Asia)

Players to watch:
- Without a doubt, Iran’s fab five will carry this team. Hamed Haddadi, Oshin Sahakian, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Hamd Afagh, and Mahdi Kamrani are all back and ready to lead Team Melli in its quest to win its fourth FIBA Asia Championship crown in the last five editions. Haddadi remains practically unstoppable when he gets to his spot under the basket, while Bahrami is just a superb scoring machine. Afagh continues to be sharp from long range, Kamrani is raring to prove that he’s the best playmaker in Asia, and Sahakian remains a tireless workhorse. Complementing them will be a troop of amazing young talents. Watch out, in particular, for 6’9 Arman Zangeneh, who is set to be the next dominant big guy for Iran, super shooter Behnam Yakhchali, who hit 1.1 threes per encounter in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, including hitting 4 against the Philippines, and the heir apparent to Bahrami’s spot — Mohammad Jamshidi. And we haven’t even talked about old reliables like Asghar Kardoust, Rouzbeh Arghavan, Saeid Davarpanah, Java Davari, and Aren Davoudi. Coach Bauermann's biggest problem right now is actually trimming his deep pool into just a dozen guys for the FIBA Asia tourney, but, hell, it’s a happy problem.

Mohammad Jamshidi is one young guy to watch out for.
(image from FIBA)

- Right off the bat, it’s certain that Iran has a very good chance to win the whole thing again. They’ve gone on to win three of the last four FIBA Asia Championship competitions and remain the clear favorites this year. Yes, despite the tournament being held in China. Despite the Philippines having Andray Blatche. Despite the return of Fadi El Khatib, Sam Daghlas, and Zaid Abbas. Iran will be the bona fide heavy title favorite. The crown will be theirs to lose.

Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and the rest of Iran are aiming for their fourth FIBA Asia Championship crown in the last five years.
(image by Nuki Sabio/FIBA Asia)

UPDATE as of the morning of August 28, 2015: Former Oregon Duck and NBA Draft pick Arsalan Kazemi has been included in the national pool and will join the team in the Jones Cup.




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4 Comment

Sir Enzo, You mean former NBA draft pick for the Arzalan Kazemi update. Thanks!


Boss Enzo may contender preview na ba Philippines?


Won't do one on Gilas. Only focusing on the teams Gilas may face on their way to the championship. Next up are India then China.