Winnipeg’s Erfan Nasajpour is in Slovenia, training for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain in four days.
“I didn’t plan on coming out here, but I got the call last minute, and it’s a privilege to play for the country I was born in,” said Nasajpour.
The 30-year-old Winnipegger plays for the Iranian national basketball team after coming to Canada with his family in 1991.
“I grew up in the core of downtown Winnipeg most of my life, and you know, it was a struggle, but basketball has helped me get away from a bad path,” he said.
Nasajpour’s talent on the court lead to a basketball scholarship at the University of Winnipeg and eventually to a spot on Iran’s national basketball team.
“He just stuck with it – lots of practise. He just became obsessed with it 24-7 – even sleeping, dreaming about it,” said Golnaz Nasajpour, his sister.
That translated to huge success on the court, according to former coach Dave Crook.
“He had the ability to take the game over if it had to be taken over. You know, he’s only a little guy – five-foot-nine – but physically, he could make things happen,” said Crook, who coaches the U of W men’s basketball team. “He’s just a very, very special individual.”
Before getting the call to play for Iran, Nasajpour was coaching and mentoring young kids in Winnipeg at Basketball Manitoba's high performance camps.
“At the basketball camps he told me he plays professionally, and I always ask him questions,” said Nicolas Bueno. “To hear that he’s going to be playing for Iran, that’s phenomenal.”
So far, Nasajpour has played five seasons with Iran’s professional basketball league, but he returns every summer to help kids on Winnipeg courts.
Despite his perennial summer return, one of Nasajpour’s biggest challenges playing abroad lies off the courts.
“The hardest part is being away from my family,” said Nasajpour.