09 - 18
September 2016
11 Oshin Sahakian (IRI)
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Oshin Sahakian still has the hunger to compete

TEHRAN (FIBA Asia Challenge 2016) - With a good balance of youth and experience as well as size and shooting, not to mention the fact that they’re the hosts, Iran are the runaway favorites to win the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 crown. If they manage to do that, they would be pocketing a rare hat-trick of tournament championships and the first one in this event’s history.

For Team Melli to pull that off many key players have to put in their finest work for coach Dirk Bauermann, and one of these is veteran power forward Oshin Sahakian, who is in his tenth playing year for the Iranian national team.

He was there when Iran climb the top of the FIBA Asia mountain for the first time at Tokushima, Japan in 2007. He was also around when they repeated the feat at Tianjin, China in 2009 and Manila, Philippines in 2013, when he was also named in the All-Star Five. In the history of the FIBA Asia Challenge, he has also been a high-level impact player, helping Iran win in both 2012 (Tokyo) and 2014 (Wuhan).

Along with Hamed Haddadi, Sahakian is one of the elder statesmen on this team with an average age of 26 years old. Eight of coach Bauermann’s players are actually 26 or younger — a good sign that the national basketball program of Iran is gearing up for the future.

As one of the most seasoned men on the squad, Sahakian feels amazed at the opportunity to mentor Iran’s best young talents.

“These youngsters have a fantastic attitude and willingness to learn from the older generation,” Sahakian said.

“But they lack exposure and competitive international games,” he added. “Yes, they played in WABA and in the OQT but more games are needed.”

Despite the relative inexperience of a number of his teammates, Sahakian still feels Iran have a strong chance to win the title at home, though he acknowledges that the journey back to the top will be anything but easy.

“We want to win — that would be amazing, especially that the championship is in Iran,” Sahakian noted. “But it won’t be easy.”

Right now, Sahakian and the rest of Team Melli have remained undefeated and looked unstoppable. They have, in fact, beaten teams by an average of 49.3 points. Of course, Sahakian and Co. are aware that the next few games are going to be much tougher.

“There are tough games coming up,” he added. “I’ve seen a lot of good and strong teams so far here like Korea, China and Japan.”

In particular, Sahakian feels his team still have a lot of things to improve before they can even dream of hoisting the first place trophy.

“Our team is a strong team both inside and outside, but there are departments which we’ll have to improve in,” he explained. “We need to work on our pick-and-roll because teams like Korea and Chinese Taipei can very much hurt us.”

As far as his role and his remaining years playing for the national team are concerned, however, Sahakian is taking all these in stride. If it were up to him, he’d love to play as long as he is physically capable of doing so, but he also knows that there is a bigger picture for the national basketball program.

When asked to remark about whether this could be his last appearance for the national team in a FIBA competition, all Sahakian had to say was this:

“It’s the coach’s decision and the federation’s, of course, but I still can play and definitely have the hunger in me.”