Iran's Aaron Geramipoor is relatively new to the international basketball scene, having made his debut for Team Melli during the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
But the 27-year-old big man was quick to show his potential, averaging 10.4 points and 6 rebounds for an Iran side that secured its Olympic qualification by finishing as the top Asian team in the tournament. The British-Iranian Geramipoor played just over 16 minutes per game as he served as the primary back-up to Iran star Hamed Haddadi.
"It was just an honor to represent the country of Iran. It's an honor to represent my father's homeland and the Iranian Federation, props to them," Geramipoor said in a chat with FIBA Asia.
Geramipoor called his World Cup experience "unbelievable," especially as it marked his first time to wear national team colors. It only made him look forward to more opportunities with Team Melli, particularly for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup 2021.
He got a taste of Asian competition when Iran played against the Philippines in the second round of the tournament, with Team Melli coming away with a 95-75 win.
"Playing against… the Philippines at the World Cup, I know we ended up winning the game, but they gave us a run for our money," Geramipoor recalled. "We were up at a time by maybe 10 points, and they brought it back close."
Gilas Pilipinas had trailed most of the way against Iran before making one last push in the fourth quarter. A triple by Roger Pogoy made it a 15-point game, 80-65, with still 6:28 left.
Iran responded well out of a timeout, however, with Geramipoor's dunk helping them restore order en route to the 20-point win.
At the time, however, they were "panicking," Geramipoor admitted.
"But you know, we regrouped, and we came out. We practiced what we put into play, and we ended up getting the win, but it was a great game," said Geramipoor, who had 12 points and 3 rebounds in the victory.
He had nothing but praise for the Filipino fans who watched at the Cadillac Center in Beijing and cheered Gilas Pilipinas on.
"The Philippines' fans, I got to hand it to them. At the World Cup, they were crazy," said Geramippor. "Good crazy, but they were fun. They made the game that much more fun, you know?"
The young center is now looking forward to playing against Asian competition more, starting with next year's Asia Cup.
"I can't wait to be able to play in the Asia Cup, finally," he said. "It's a milestone that I want to take off my list. In the next event, I'll make sure I'm there."
Iran is in Group E of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
They compiled a 2-0 record with wins over Syria and Qatar in the first qualifying window, before FIBA suspended all competitions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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