June 9, 2016
Countdown to Manila OQT: 26 days
Iranian national basketball team forward Oshin Sahakian says playing the Philippines further helps the West Asian squad in its build-up for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin, Italy next month.
Sahakian, now one of the leaders of the youthful Iranian roster, scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in his squad’s 81-70 loss to Gilas Pilipinas last Wednesday night.
The all-star five member of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship had high praise for Gilas, and credited the team for giving Iran a tough challenge.
“The Philippine team is a good team. They play very well. They know and understand basketball. And it is hard to match Andray Blatche. He helped them a lot,” Sahakian said.
“They have a big coach. They are a big team. Like our team, they are playing for the qualification in the Olympics. It was a hard game for us, 20 points down, we tried to come back, but we lost.”
Sahakian said the exhibition match last Wednesday also served as a good simulation since Iran expects the OQT to have the similar atmosphere.
“They have a lot of fans. It’s homecourt. They have motivation. They have great experience, they shoot a lot of threes, they make it, and that is why (it is hard),” Sahakian shared.
“We came here to prepare for our qualification in Italy. It was a good scrimmage because the Philippines is a good team. They have a good (arena), good fans. We will play in the same (atmosphere). We will play Greece, Greece has good fans.”
Iran is in Group A of the Turin OQT with Greece and Mexico. Italy is bracketed in Group B with Croatia and Tunisia.
Looking ahead, with the likes of Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and Mehdi Kamrani already out of the pool, the 30-year-old Sahakian said he is ready to fulfill the bigger role, and lead his team to success.
“Now, coach gives me the captain role for the Iranian team. I think if Hamad (Haddadi) comes back, he will be the captain but for now, I need to help my players and my team. Every time, I talk. Sometimes, I yell. And that’s what coach wants,” he said.