The NCAA tournament is funny. For example, some of its stars go on to be just that -- stars -- playing under the bright lights of the NBA, performing in big moments, nursing long careers, seeing the best of their basketball days happen not before graduation but after. But for others, "One Shining Moment" is completely literal. After the tournament's over, there will be no more basketball glory. Only highlight reels, winnowing fame, and hopefully, something resembling a normal life.
You already know to which category Ali Farokhmanesh is going to belong.
The 5-foot-11 guard from Northern Iowa became the unlikeliest of household names in March after he sank an ill-advised three pointer to shock NCAA tournament favorite Kansas in the second round of the 2010 tourney. But Farokhmanesh, like Bryce Drew before him, isn't cut from an NBA cloth -- skills aside, he's a relatively unathletic guy on the shorter end of the hoops spectrum -- and NBA scouts aren't exactly drooling over the UNI guard. So what does Farokhmanesh do next? Can he extend his basketball career, or is it already time, just a month after the greatest moment of that career, to hang up the sneakers?
Nope. Farokhmanesh is doing exactly what I'd be doing in a similar position: Trying to play overseas. From the Des Moines Register:
Farokhmanesh is consulting coach Ben Jacobson about finding an agent and playing overseas. After all, you're in your early 20s, your knees are holding up, you've got all your hair. Why not see the world? "I really don't care as far as (the country)," Ali says. "I've lived here 22 years of my life. I'd like to live some other places. It'd be a great opportunity."
He's fielded a few calls already. An assistant coach with Iran's national basketball team has extended an offer. Ali's father, Mashallah, is a native of the country and played on Iran's volleyball team before moving to the United States. "I don't know how realistic it is right now, just because (I wonder) how safe it would be to go over there," Ali says. "I'd obviously have to live over there and work out with the team and be there for a long period of time. I'm not really leaning toward it."
Farokhmanesh has the right idea here. Sometimes, I catch myself and my friends talking about former college basketball players playing overseas as though it's slightly undignified -- clearly, most of those players wanted to be in the NBA, and the fact that they aren't must surely count as a failure, right? But that's not at all true. If you find the right situation, you can get paid plenty of money (not NBA money, but maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, which down here in the real world counts as making it rain) to play basketball for a living. And, as Farokhmanesh mentions, you get to see the world: Spain, Turkey, Greece, Lithuania, maybe even South America or China. This is tremendous life. If you can live it, even for a few years, why wouldn't you?
Then, when Farokhmanesh comes home, he can polish off the Sports Illustrated covers in his rumpus room, start working on his coaching career, and settle into a normal life much like the rest of us. In the end, that's the real magic of the NCAA tournament.