Michael Carter-Williams fielded most of the questions between the Sixers’ two 2013 draftees in attendance at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday.
Flanked to Carter-Williams’ left was Arsalan Kazemi, who received less of the attention but was certainly on the Sixers’ minds during draft night.
Kazemi was selected 54th overall for the Sixers by Washington, a product of one of several draft deals executed in the second round by Sam Hinkie.
The Sixers' new president and GM was doing plenty of maneuvering to gain assets while keeping one eye on Kazemi.
“We had the 35th pick in the second round and we were interested then, but we moved and moved and moved,” Hinkie said. “But we always moved with one goal. We were never not going to have a pick in the second round. The reason for that is we were never going to put ourselves in a position to not pick Arsalan, so we are excited to be able to also add him.”
Kazemi (6-7/226) played all four years in college. The forward averaged 9.4 points and 10 rebounds a game for Oregon last season while leading the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.
Those are all solid accomplishments, but the achievement of becoming the first Iranian-born player ever selected in the NBA draft took the night to a completely new level for Kazemi.
“I am really just happy. It is not just me but all the kids back in Iran and not just Iran but the region of the Middle East,” he said. “It is going to be huge for them keeping their dream alive because they think it is not going to happen for them. But I was just the same way and thinking the same way, and the next minute I am in a plane coming to the U.S. and now I am being drafted.
“It is exciting and I am really happy and happy for basketball in that region.”
Soccer and wrestling are considered the major sports in Iran, but Kazemi said basketball and volleyball are really growing. The interest in basketball certainly continued on Thursday when plenty of people in Iran stayed up late to see Kazemi’s named called.
Kazemi’s road to Philadelphia had its rough moments. He spent the first three years of his college career at Rice University. He was granted hardship transfer for allegedly being the target of racial abuse from the school’s athletic director.
However, Kazemi didn’t let that deter his dream.
In three NCAA Tournament games this past spring, Kazemi grabbed 45 total rebounds to help keep his name in discussions about playing at the next level.
In the mold of other high-energy rebound magnets such as Kenneth Faried and Reggie Evans, Kazemi is confident about what he can bring to the Sixers.
“I always play hard and I bring toughness,” Kazemi said. “I bring hard work. I am a good defender and energy, that is what I bring to the table. I think I am mentally ready and obviously I played against professional players because I played for my national team. Every year I get to play against a bunch of professional players.
“I want to compete. I played against a lot of NBA guys playing against Team USA. I have the mindset of how it is going to be. I have the experience playing in college four years. I think I should be good.”