Arsalan Kazemi waiver huge for Oregon

Big time news for Oregon Ducks and coach Dana Altman this afternoon, as the NCAA has granted Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi's hardship waiver request, ESPN.com's Andy Katz reported:

The Ducks staff was informed Thursday afternoon and relayed the news in a text to ESPN.com. If Kazemi didn't receive the waiver, his plan was to sit out the year rather than declare for the NBA draft or seek a contract overseas, according to a source. A transfer from Rice who had been practicing with Oregon, Kazemi will be eligible to play Friday night against Vanderbilt. He missed Oregon's first two games.

The ruling is a bit surprising, given that Kazemi's hardship request didn't come as the strict result of the NCAA's stated purpose for such waivers, i.e. financial hardship or the illness of a family member. For Kazemi, the first Iranian-born Division 1 men's basketball player in history, the concept of moving closer to home to play college hoops obviously does not apply. But Kazemi's teammate, Omar Oraby, won a waiver to play at USC right away; Oraby and Kazemi were two of six players who left Rice last season. Somewhere in there, the NCAA apparently found enough to grant. And, confusing as the entire hardship waiver process has become, it would have been hard to grant one without the other.

Anyway, the decision is massive for Oregon: Kazemi has been one of the nation's most underrated players for the last two years, a dominant rebounder and interior finisher. In 2012 Kazemi finished third in the country in defensive rebounding percentage and eighth in free throw rate, while playing in a conference (CUSA) with its fair share of physical bigs. He'll be a force from his first possessions in Eugene.

Dana Altman lost six of last year's 10 rotation players this offseason. He kept forward E.J. Singler and Wake Forest transfer Tony Woods, and he'll add freshman point guard Dominic Artis. Without Kazemi, that's another so-so to borderline-rebuilding season in store for the Ducks, with a tournament finish on the very high upside of the team's projection. With Kazemi, that's a much more well-rounded team, one that can score and rebound and push the higher edges of the Pac-12 on a nightly basis.

So, no, Oregon won't quibble with the legislative nuts and bolts of the decision. They'll be too busy rejoicing.