|Allen Durham and Mohammad Jamshidi|
This appears in the Monday, July 18, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
Throwback and Forward
by rick olivares
Following the Meralco Bolts’ scintillating 108-103 win over the Phoenix Petroleum Masters in the opening match of the 2016 Governors’ Cup, the former’s head coach, Norman Black, gushed over import Allen Durham. “He’s a throwback,” described Black of his American reinforcement. “He reminds me of Billy Ray Bates, Bobby Ray Parks, and David Thirdkill.”
Black was referring to an American player who put up monster numbers. Something he’d be familiar with having played in the PBA and put up some monster numbers himself — 40.2 points and 18.9 rebounds in 10 years!
Durham, who is on his second tour of duty in the PBA (he previously played for Barako Bull), compiled an awesome stat line of 32 points, 22 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 block shot versus 6 turnovers in a little over 44 minutes. More than the stats, Black pointed out to his excellent attitude and how Durham will anchor Meralco’s offense and defense.
Could Durham put up those same numbers that Bates, Parks, Thirdkill, and Black did?
However, the league, the PBA, has changed.
Time was we got some of the best American players plying their trade outside continental USA. Nowadays, many of them play in Europe, West Asia, and China. We occasionally get some top caliber Americans but the field has diluted. Rain or Shine won the Commissioner’s Cup without a high scoring import; a first. Furthermore, the modern Filipino player is more skilled, athletic, not to mention taller. The Fil-Am invasion of the 1990s has certainly raised the level of the game of the players while the coaching chops has certainly gotten better.
And for the second straight Governors’ Cup, we’re seeing a most welcome Asian flavor to the conference.*
In that same Meralco-Phoenix match, other coaches noted the Bolts' pick-up of Mohammad Jamshidi as its second import albeit an Asian one. Manila audiences got another look at the swingman who first suited up for Iran in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships held in Manila. During Gilas Pilipinas’ recent tune-up match against Iran prior to the before the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Iran sans its veterans, fielded a younger squad. Jamshidi without Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, started and was the subject of tough defense by the Filipinos.
In Jamshidi’s four years with Iran, he’s brought home four medals, Fiba gold in the 2012 Asian Cup and 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, silver in the 2014 Incheon Asian games and bronze during the 2015 Chansha FIBA Asia Championships. During Iran’s recent campaign in the FIBA OQT in Turn, Italy, Jamshidi was third in the team in scoring with 11.0 points and was tops in assists with 3.5 per match. Yet he turned over the ball 5.5 times during Iran’s two matches as they bowed out in the group stage.
“In Asia, we’re tall enough, big enough that we can dominate,” shared the Iranian. “Against the Europeans who are not only taller, strong, and faster, it is tougher for us and Asians. I think experience against playing them will help but what we hope is for our taller players to match them in speed and strength. Hopefully, the younger generation of Iranian players will realize that."
The 24-year old Iranian national flew in from Tehran, Iran last Thursday on board an Etihad flight but arrived with nothing but his hand-carry luggage. Apparently, the airline lost his luggage. As of Saturday afternoon, the luggage had yet to arrive. During the match versus Phoenix, Jamshidi used Chris Newsome’s kicks. He tallied nine points, one rebound, and three assists in 14 minutes of play. He had two nifty assists to Durham and one great kick out to an open Jimmy Alapag for a triple. However, at one point, he didn’t have his legs anymore as he had not slept in 30 hours.
“When I asked him what position he’d play,” shared Bolts point guard Anjo Caram, the six-foot-four Jamshidi shrugged.
“Anything the coach tells me to play.” he answered. In truth, Janshidi can play the one to three spots. He’s a great pick up, marveled Alaska Aces coach Alex Compton. “He gives Meralco flexibility in three positions. But his best asset is his great court vision.”
“When I was approached by Boss Paolo (Trillo, Meralco team manager) to play for the Bolts, I thought it was an honour. It is nice to be recognized by some of our toughest rivals here in Asia but it is also good to play in front of such passionate fans. I didn’t know anything about Philippine basketball except for the national team and players like Jimmy (Alapag) who I played against. I did a little research and saw that it’s a good team. I sure hope I can help this team win a championship.”
“This is my third time in Manila and each time, I’ve seen the big audiences so it’s a good change to have some people in the crowd cheering for my team,” reflected Jamshidi. This stint is his first outside Iran and the experience is something he hopes to cherish. “It is an exciting time for me. It helps me fulfill my basketball goals. I never thought I’d play in the PBA. I never think I will play in the NBA. But now I have this chance in the PBA so who knows what can happen?”
“Right now, my job is to help Meralco."