Son of Iran Becomes Unlikely Big Shot for Northern Iowa
New York Times / Dave Caldwell

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ali Farokhmanesh’s father, Mashala, played volleyball for Iran in the 1980 Summer Olympics, but that was not as prestigious as it might seem. For one thing, Mashala played most of his games on concrete courts. And volleyball players need to dive.

“He taught me about work ethic," said Ali, who has become a nationally known senior guard for the Northern Iowa basketball team overnight.

Farokhmanesh swished in a jump shot of nearly 30 feet with 4.9 seconds left to lift the Panthers to a 69-66 victory Thursday over Nevada-Las Vegas in the opening round of the N.C.A.A. tournament. U.N.I. (29-4), the No. 9 seed in the Midwest, will play top-seeded Kansas (33-2) on Saturday.

Although U.N.I., in Cedar Falls, is making its fifth tournament appearance in seven years, the Panthers are generally seen as big underdogs — a potential Cinderella. During a news conference Friday, U.N.I. players were asked how many of them would start at Kansas.

“I don’t know the answer to that one,” Adam Koch, a senior forward, said.

The players feel as if they have earned the right to play the Jayhawks. The Panthers, most of whom come from the upper Midwest, work hard and get along. Farokhmanesh, who averages 9 points a game, is one of the main reasons for their success, and for a reason.

He has had to make a name for himself. When he played at West High School in Iowa City, the public-address announcers flubbed the pronunciation of ... >>>

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