Will the 'leader' in Hamed Hadadi please stand up!
KUALA LUMPUR (Mageshwaran's AsiaScope) - There comes a time in every player's career when the moment calls for the player to dig deep within his reserves and raise the bar to an unprecedented level.
Call it a crossroads or a turning point, depending on the tense of describing the moment. These are the moments that have gone on to define the player in history books.
One may wonder if such situations can apply even to Hadadi, Iran's first - and so far only - player to actually play in the NBA. But the moment that beckons Hadadi is the very result of him being one of his country's top sporting icons.
This is certainly not about Hadadi's utility to the Iran basketball team or his ability on the court. There's no doubt on that. This discussion is about his aptitude to lead the Iran basketball image and give it a completely new dimension.
Hadadi is certainly the most important player in the Iran basketball team. But the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup to be played in Spain from 30 August-14 September calls for Hadadi to become the most influential personality in Iran basketball.
Measures to move Hadadi up this ladder were underway at the 5th FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China two weeks ago.
Familiar faces like Arsalan Kazemi and Oshin Sahakian were present, but the 29-year-old found the going not too comfortable with the likes of youngsters Behnam Yakhchali and Mohammad Jamshidi - neither of them any less in talent or temperament.
"They can't pass to me," Hadadi bemoaned after Iran suffered their first - and eventually only - defeat in three years in FIBA Asia competitions.
"They don't know my game," was his remark, sounding - honestly speaking - rather churlish.
The answer to these whinings came from the coach of Iran's team itself.
"The whole idea is to get him to lead the team. I think Hadadi is the most underutilized center in the entire basketball world," said Memi Becirovic.
"He has played superbly at the FIBA Asia level. There's no doubt in that. But I do believe that he has a lot more to offer than just that."
Becirovic was rather cuttingly straight in his explanation.
"With the familiar players around, Hadadi gets a little too comfortable doing only what he is supposed to do, but the challenge is to raise him to do what he can do.
"Iran basketball will be a force to reckon within international basketball if that can happen," the Slovenian went on.
"Hamed is like a child. He has to be fed all the time," said Mehran Shahintab, a coach who, along with Saeed Fathi, handpicked Hadadi for induction into the Iran cadet team in the late 1990s.
"But then this is the time for him to stand up and be a man. Basketball is a team game no doubt, but then every player can raise his game and take charge of the whole process. Hamed has not been doing that so far. But this is the chance for him to change track," Shahintab, now an assistant coach with Team Melli, went on.
"But the greatest thing about Hamed is that he is a willing and quick learner. And he is a hard worker as well. Given these two factors, I won't be surprised if we see a revitalized Hadadi in Spain. As a matter of fact it's been a long time waiting for this to happen. I'm very confident it'll happen very soon."
Players of Hadadi's mettle are hard to come by. The whole world knows this. It's now time for the player himself to realize this. After all, champions are what champions do - raise the bar all the time.
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