CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman broke the news last night that Rice Owls forward Arsalan Kazemi is intending to transfer for his senior year. Kazemi has one year of eligibility left and expressed the desire to play at a high-major program. He requested a release to the following six schools: Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, Ohio State, Florida, and Cincinnati.
The late decision was presumably spurred by significant attrition from the Owl basketball program. Five other players have transferred from head coach Ben Braun's program this offseason. However, an easy transfer might be difficult for Kazemi this late in the process. Presumably, most schools are already well into the current semester, which may make it hard for Kazemi to qualify academically should he choose to try and play immediately.
That may not be possible if, per the Rice press release, Kazemi has not yet graduated with his bachelor degree. In that case, any transfer would almost certainly result in Kazemi sitting a year and becoming eligible for the 2013-14 season. Kazemi could request a waiver to play immediately, but does not have the accompanying special circumstances required by the NCAA to grant such a waiver.
If Kazemi is not eligible until the 2013-14 season, whichever team he chooses would need to have a scholarship available for both this year and next, presuming Kazemi does not want to pay his own way. Kazemi also has not ruled out the possibility of going overseas to play professionally.
If Kazemi does stay in the states and complete his eligibility, he has NBA potential as a high-energy bench guy. Despite being an undersized power forward, Kazemi has been an efficiency All-Star. He has averaged a double-double for his career, posting 12.1 PPG and 10.3 RPG in his junior year despite struggling with injuries. His sophomore year was his best, when Kazemi averaged 15.2 PPG and 11.0 RPG. Measured by player efficiency rating (PER), Kazemi ranked 7th in the nation as a sophomore (31.1 PER) but fell to 35th overall as a junior (27.5 PER).
A unique fact about Kazemi: he is the first Iranian-born athlete to play Division I basketball. The decision to transfer this close to the start of the season certainly is a curious one, especially since an outstanding senior season could have put him on the NBA Draft bubble. But Rice's loss may be Texas' gain. We'll keep an eye on what happens.