Farokhmanesh leads in a way a head coach can't


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Ali Farokhmanesh is always in Hawkeye Gabe Olaseni's ear, telling him what to do.

The Iowa star doesn't mind, however. He welcomes it.

Farokhmanesh is 24. Olaseni is 20. Farokhmanesh, who graduated from Northern Iowa in 2010, has played two seasons in European professional leagues.

He has experience that Olaseni wants to learn from.

"I've learned a lot from him, a lot about the different sides of offense and defense," Olaseni said. "He's an experienced guy, so whatever he tells you to do, you do it to the best of your ability."

The Austria pro hasn't put up outstanding numbers — he averages 12.8 points per game in the Prime Time League — but Farokhmanesh is valuable to head coach Kevin Lehman in a way much more important than scoring double digits.

The former Panther almost acts as a second coach for his Prime Time League, but instead of instructing from the sidelines, he's on the court, leading by example.

"He uses screens so well and finds ways to get open," Iowa's Devyn Marble said. "At UNI, he was a really good shooter, and he's still a really good shooter, but I notice that about him — that he finds ways to get open despite his size, being smaller."

Farokhmanesh stands just 6-0, but he has played his way through two years of pro ball, on in Switzerland, one in Austria. The ex-Panther's team advanced to the semifinals last season and are expected to return as a championship contender in 2013.

Basketball overseas is a different game — it's more fast-paced with a 24-second shot clock.

Farokhmanesh said he's used to setting up his offense much faster, to picking up the full court, to getting pressure the entire game instead of just when he's in shooting range.

He said his professional career has helped him "see the whole floor more" and "play hard all the time," and he does his best to pass this knowledge on to his Prime Time teammates, most of whom are still in college and are years away from entering professional careers.

Farokhmanesh sees his age and the years of experience as his greatest assets.

"The older you get, the more you enjoy this, because you know your career is kind of winding down," he said. "You can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Farokhmanesh is humble — he said he's talked to many of the Iowa basketball players involved in Prime Time — but said the Hawkeye hoopsters know how to play the game and don't need any pointers from him.

But Olaseni and Marble say otherwise. Farokhmanesh might not speak up too often, but the youngsters definitely pay attention to the professional's actions and attitudes.

Olaseni said he's greatly influenced by Farokhmanesh's confidence, that he walks on and off the court believing in himself and his abilities. Marble said he admires the ex-Panther's motivation and drive.

Farokhmanesh teaches the younger players things that can't be drawn on a strategy board. He teaches his teammates basketball from someone wearing, very possibly, the exact same basketball shoes.

"I try to help them with enjoying the game more and playing with a little intelligence," Farokhmanesh said. "Eventually, these guys aren't going to be as athletic as they are right now, so they've got to learn to play the game, too."

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