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   April , 1, 2018, 02:56 AM  

Michael Jordan inspires Iranian rising star Mohammad Jamshidi
Iran national basketball team forward Mohammad Jamshidi counts legendary basketball player Michael Jordan as his main playing influence.

"Michael Jordan was really inspiring for me, and I was watching his highlights almost everyday," Jamshidi told FIBA. "Whoever knows me knows how hard I work just like MJ. I watch basketball games almost everyday, and I try to practice whatever I learn. I believe everything comes from hard work and dedication."

He considers the opportunity to play at home as a tremendous honor that he will not trade for anything else.

"It's always an honor to play for your country in front of your family and your people," he said. "There is nothing better than representing and having a good performance for your country."

Jamshidi, among the All-Star Five at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017, where Iran finished second to Australia, believes his national team has enough talent to beat any team in the region.

"No one is safe from us" Jamshidi recently said. "We can beat anyone no matter who the opponent is."

Iran, of course, still remember how the Boomers dropped the boom on them in the Asia Cup 2017 Final, but Jamshidi knows that Team Melli were missing a couple of key players in that game.

"Losing to Australia was so sad for us," he recalled. "We were mostly young players there and played pretty well in the tournament but still I can say if we had more time to recover after that hard Semi-Final against Korea, we could have beaten Australia in the Final."

The 26-year-old guard-forward believes that with a more complete roster, especially one that includes Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and Behnam Yakhchali, Iran can certainly pull the rug from under Australia.

"The team really missed Samad Nikkhah Bahrami," he said. "With him, we play better basketball, and with me, Behnam and Samad all on the court, we definitely can beat Australia."

Jamshidi certainly cannot be faulted for feeling very confident. Iran, armed with a more complete pool of talent in the second window, romped through their Asian Qualifiers assignments last month. They manhandled erstwhile unbeaten Kazakhstan, 75-54, and then trampled all over Iraq, 83-53, to bump their win-loss record up to 3-1. Those results propelled Iran into the second round, where they will be grouped with the Philippines, either Japan or Chinese Taipei and, you guessed it, old nemesis Australia.

What will make their future encounter with the Boomers quite different is that Iran will have a chance to play Australia at home, and Jamshidi knows Team Melli will put up a much stronger front as their hometown fans cheer them on. Playing at home is actually one of the things that Jamshidi loves about the New Competition System. For the 6ft 7in (1.99m) wingman, it's a meaningful privilege to play in front of his fellow Iranians.

"We have this chance to play in our country, and so we have this home court advantage that we didn't have before," he said. "This is a really big chance for us to beat all of our opponents here in Iran. It's an amazing experience for me playing in front of our fans."

One other quality of the New Competition System that Jamshidi likes is how the windows are spread throughout the calendar year, which enables teams to change players up, especially those who may have been injured and therefore, missed some earlier fixtures.

"There's a big difference now," he explained. "In past Asian tournaments, we had 8 games in almost 10-11 days, and that was so hard to play. Additionally, if you have an injured player, he will miss all the games. If he is the key player, then its over."

Iran next travel to Qatar to play Al Annabi on 29 June and then host Kazakhstan on 2 July to close out their Asian Qualifiers first round campaign. 


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