With Kentucky’s Football team currently struggling to find competence on the field, it’s nice to know that all is right in the world when it comes to our basketball program. A sure sign that all is well with things on Avenue of Champions (besides the 8th national title) is the fact nearly all elite level players want to be a part of our tradition and success. It’s no secret that elite level High School recruits want to suit up in blue and white, but also, others who are much older want to sport those colors as well. One player who fits this later trend is the first native Iranian to ever play Division-1 College basketball, Arsalan Kazemi. The Senior transfer from Rice (pursuing a hardship transfer) is currently looking for a place to call home for his Senior season and Kentucky just so happens to be one of his early favorites, alongside Oregon. While it’s uncertain if he’ll ever sport Kentucky blue, it’s interesting to know how he could potentially fit in with a young Wildcat squad with questions looming. So, to know for sure, I went back and examined his advanced stats to see just where he’d fit into the 2012-13 version of Wildcats.
First to acknowledge his basic numbers, Kazemi averaged 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a Junior at Rice, leading his team to a 19-16 record. Those are obviously very good for a high level player, but they only tell part of the story. Numbers that tell a much more significant tale are his advanced stats which remove tempo and minutes played from the equation. When these factors are removed we can tell just how efficient Kazemi was as an Owl. During his three seasons, he was the most efficient player at Rice in terms of Offensive Rating, finishing (last year) with a rating of 114.6 at 21.2% of possessions used (100.0 at 20% is considered average). While that might not make much sense to someone who doesn’t study Offensive Ratings, here’s an advanced stat that will, Defensive Rebounding Percentage. It’s simply a percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained while a player is in the game, below is a chart containing national leaders for 2011 and 2012.
As you can see, Kazemi is among the nation’s elite in obtaining defensive boards. He’s right alongside the likes of Drew Gordon, Kenneth Faried, Drymond Green, and Thomas Robinson (certainly no slouches there). The most encouraging thing about this is the fact he’s been consistently elite in this category, so it’s likely he would continue to rebound at a high level.
Another huge positive about Kazemi’s game is his ability to get to the free throw line, ranking 8th and 2nd nationally in Free Throw Rate the past two seasons. Free Throw Rate does nothing more than tell you how often a player gets to the line relative to how many shots he takes. Something to prove this number is no fluke would be his fouls drawn per-40 minutes. In 2011 he averaged a mind numbing 8.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, and in 2012 he got fouled 5.5 times per 40 minutes. It’s highly encouraging to know a player can get opposing players in foul trouble at an efficient rate, especially in an age of thin rosters.
The numbers listed above like Defensive Rebounding Percentage and Fouls Drawn per 40 minutes are very telling about his game. Typically a player who excels in these roles is an unsung workhorse who rarely gets the credit he deserves. If he were to eventually suit up as a Wildcat he wouldn’t be a star or get many touches, as we have many high level scorers coming in who will fill those flashy roles, but he would be someone to guide the team with his Senior experiences and blue-collar mentality.