As the FIBA Asia tournament nears the elimination rounds, one man stands over the pack looking to lead his undefeated country to gold.
Hamin Haddadi, 28, an NBA center from Ahvaz, Iran was a dominant force during the round robin overpowering the group of death (Group C) with a 3-0 record.
Standing at 7 ft. 2 in. and weighs in at 265 lbs., Haddadi towers over most Asian big men. He is the first Iranian to ever step foot on NBA hardwood. Haddadi has always been loyal to his home country, while playing for the Phoenix Suns, he wore the number 98 as a tribute to him home nation’s telephone code.
In the opening match tournament, Iran dismantled Malaysia, 115-25. They followed suite by beating Korea 76-65 and then taking care of a China team who were without star player Jianlian Yi 70-51.
Iran’s national squad has been in the international spotlight since they qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The team has grown together since then. Five years later, coach Memi Becirovic believes the team is only as dominant as their star player (Haddadi).
Haddadi is averaging 22 points, nine rebounds in three games thus far in Manila.
In 2007, Iran was crowned the FIBA Asia championship. They were repeat champions in 2009. In 2011, Jordan upset Iran in the quarterfinals and finished fifth overall. This time around, Iran came prepared. Prior to the FIBA Asia tournament, Iran captured the Jones Cup title going undefeated in seven games.
In round two, Iran tops group F, which includes Korea, China, Kazakhstan, Bahrain and India. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) leads group E with Philippines, Jordan, Qatar, Japan and Hong Kong.