Breaking News:

The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Catching up with former Northern Iowa hero Ali Farokhmanesh

The Dagger

View photo

.

uspw_4584898

LostLettermen.com, the college sports fan site and former player database, regularly contributes to The Dagger. Here's a look at the current whereabouts of former Northern Iowa guard Ali Farokhmanesh.

Halfway around the world in Switzerland, about as far removed from office pools and bracket banter as you can possibly get, they still recognize the player who sent last year's NCAA tournament into chaos.

"We had been running on the track the first day with my Swiss teammates," Northern Iowa legend Ali Farokhmanesh said. "Like four different guys came up to me and said I ruined their bracket."

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Farokhmanesh's historic 3-pointer that toppled No. 1 overall seed Kansas in the second round, the sharp-shooting guard has faded from the national spotlight. Now he plays pro basketball near the Italian border for the club SAM Basket Massagno, about 30 minutes from Milan, a stone's throw away from the legendary Lake Como and in the shadows of the Alps.

Since moving from shooting guard back to point guard, Farokhmanesh has improved his ball handling and passing while still averaging 20.4 points per game and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc. He hopes to parlay his success into an opportunity in a country with Europe's premier basketball teams, like Spain, Italy, Germany or Greece, and on the continent's top circuit, the Euroleague.

Farokhmanesh admits the opportunity to play basketball and see the world is one he cherishes, yet the experience hasn't been one giant vacation.

"You kind of put your life on hold being over here for the most part because you're away from everything but everyone back home is kind of living their life still and you're out here completely on your own, not a whole lot to do," Farokhmanesh said. "So it's hard at times but I think if it's your dream, it's definitely worth it." {YSP:MORE}

Farokhmanesh's current situation is eerily similar to his journey through college basketball, having to once again work his way up from obscurity.

Related: Where Are They Now? NCAA's One-Hit Wonders

The son of an Iranian immigrant, Farokhmanesh grew up in Pullman, Wash., before moving to Iowa City when his mom became the head coach of the University of Iowa women's volleyball team (his dad was the associate head coach).

Things looked bleak for Farokhmanesh's basketball future when he didn't receive any Division I offers and rode the bench at in-state Indian Hills Junior College. But he persevered and transferred to another Iowa junior college, Kirkwood, where he blossomed and eventually landed at Northern Iowa in 2008.

After losing in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament to Purdue, the Panthers set a massive goal for themselves entering Farokhmanesh's senior year: Reaching the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Northern Iowa put together a season for the ages, losing just four times in the regular season and stampeding through the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to land a No. 9 seed in the Big Dance.

In the team's opening-round game, Farokhmanesh hit a 3-pointer of nearly 30 feet with just 4.9 seconds left to finish with a high-game 17 points and defeat UNLV, 69-66, in what appeared to be his "One Shining Moment." After all, it was just the program's second NCAA tournament win ever.

It turned out just to be an appetizer.

Even though Northern Iowa led top-seeded Kansas almost throughout their second-round matchup and built a seven-point lead with 1:18 left, the Panthers appeared to be on the verge of collapse when the Jayhawks cut the lead to one with 42 seconds to go.

Northern Iowa inbounded the ball and broke the Kansas press, leaving Farokhmanesh all by himself in the frontcourt. Instead of running the clock down and waiting for a foul, he dropped a bomb on Kansas' Final Four dreams by hitting nothing by net from behind the arc.

The shot was one of the signature moments of last year's NCAA tournament and put Farokhmanesh alongside the likes of Bryce Drew, Harold Arceneaux, Bo Kimble and Stephen Curry in March Madness lore. A guy who entered the NCAA tournament as the fourth-leading scorer on a below-the-radar team was suddenly a household name, a Sports Illustrated cover boy and a media darling.

"My Facebook page was just absolutely insane," Farokhmanesh said. "I had over 300 text messages just on that Saturday night from everyone I hadn't talked to in five years.

"I still have about a thousand Facebook requests I haven't answered yet."

In some ways, Northern Iowa appeared to have a better opportunity than Butler to be the mid-major progam headed to Indianapolis. Its next opponent, fifth-seeded Michigan State, had just lost star point guard Kalin Lucas in the previous game to a torn Achilles tendon.

Northern Iowa jumped out to a seven-point lead at the half, but the Sweet 16 turned sour when Michigan State stormed back and eventually prevailed, 59-52, en route to Indianapolis. Farokhmanesh had just nine points.

Now nearly a year later, it's that game Farokhmanesh most often finds himself thinking about instead of his UNLV game-winner or the Kansas shot.

Related: Epic tournament moments recreated with legos

"We weren't ourselves the whole second half of that game and I think that's what hurts us the most and that's what I'll probably remember the most from that game is just those missed opportunities," Farokhmanesh said.

Farokhmanesh doesn't spend too much time dwelling on the way his college career ended because he's looking ahead to his future.

When he's not on the court, Farokhmanesh likes to play video games and hang out with his teammates like any college kid. He also likes to travel and is taking lessons to learn Italian. And Farokhmanesh has also become somewhat of a news connoisseur.

"I get to watch a lot of CNN because it's one of the few channels that comes in in English, so I'm pretty caught up in a lot of current events right now," said Farokhmanesh, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment by himself.

Related: Photo gallery of Utah State super fan "Wild Bill"

Farokhmanesh's old Northern Iowa team couldn't duplicate last year's success without him and a handful of other key players, but it settled for a bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

So with the Panthers out, who does Farokhmanesh like as his Cinderella team in this year's NCAA tournament? No. 12 seed Utah State, a 30-game winner that faces No. 5 seed Kansas State on Thursday.

As Farokhmanesh points out, the Aggies are a veteran team that knows how to win big games and has the experience of playing in the NCAA tournament the year before — just like UNI.

America, you've been warned.

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football
View Comments (0)