Ali Farokhmanesh, Baller

Updated: March 19, 2010

Perhaps you heard: The first round of a rather prestigious basketball tournament commenced at several sites across the country.

This is of note not only because it means several future D-Leaguers will perform on the national stage over the next few weekends (yes, considerably more than 60 folks picked in the 2010 NBA Draft will be playing hoops for money next year, and many of them will do so in the D-League) but because some really exciting things tend to happen in really competitive basketball games broadcast on network TV.

So please forgive me as we digress for the morning to talk about one of my favorite performers of opening day (and possibly someone who will be playing the catch-and-shoot role in a D-League arena near you one day?): Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh.

The Panthers’ season will extend at least to Saturday’s meeting with Kansas (best of luck, fellas), largely thanks to the work the senior guard put in from well beyond the arc on Thursday’s win over UNLV in Oklahoma City. Though the play-by-play unfortunately does not estimate shot distance, it is no stretch to say that several of Farokhmanesh’s buckets came from significantly outside the arc.

They also came with uncanny timeliness. In a game that stayed close throughout and featured all kinds of see-sawing, Farokhmanesh put the ball in the hoop six times. Four of those six either broke a tie or leapfrogged UNI into the lead from behind. After he banged a three-pointer to put the Panthers ahead, 50-48, the two teams played more than two and a half minutes of scoreless basketball before crisp ball movement led to Farokhmanesh making a catch and striding into his shot a couple of steps off the line on the low left wing. Buckets.

But he saved his best for a just shy of nine minutes of game time later. The Panthers spent most of that time building and then squandering a nine-point lead, and UNLV’s fantastic ball pressure late in the second half led to several empty possessions down the stretch. With 37 seconds left in a tie game and the Rebels swarming the basketball, Northern Iowa’s last possession appeared to be no less of a struggle than many of those that preceded it. But as the clock dipped inside 10 seconds, an under-pressure Johnny Moran dished the ball from the top of the key out to Farokhmanesh a solid three to four steps beyond the arc offset left, with a white jersey trying to get out to him.

Too late…for Tre’Von Willis. Farokhmanesh calmly snapped his right wrist, drained the shot and put Northern Iowa ahead to stay, 69-66. Four point nine seconds and a timeout later, the Panthers were headed to the second round.

The man finished with 17 points (tied for his second-highest single-game output of the year) on 5-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc, including the winner. Not a bad Thursday afternoon.

And as a member of the black and gold Mizzou faithful, I would be remiss not to close by wishing the man and his ‘mates all the best against the hated Jayhawks this weekend.

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