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Wednesday, August 05, 2020 — Houston, TX °

Ryan Gupta


SPORTS 9/19/12 7:00pm

Exodus: Arsalan sixth player to leave Rice

Rice senior Arsalan Kazemi requested a release from the basketball team and received it on Monday, according to Rice Athletics, making him the sixth player to leave the team since the conclusion of last season. The 6-foot-7 forward had been the Owl's most valuable player, averaging 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in 2011-2012. He was one of only 21 NCAA division I players to average a double-double last season. While Kazemi declined to comment on his decision, his departure was met by confusion from some teammates. "I don't get it because this is his last year and also because all his stats were going to sky-rocket," shooting guard Tamir Jackson said. Athletic Director Rick Greenspan also expressed his disappointment in Kazemi's departure."We take pride in the high graduation rate of our Rice student-athletes, and we're always sad when a student-athlete leaves without finishing his or her degree, but we wish Arsalan all the best," Greenspan said. While head coach Ben Braun said that Kazemi had attended all pre-season conditioning sessions and individual work- outs, the Owl's star forward is now looking to play at Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, Ohio State, Florida or Cincinnati. Profesional European leagues also remain a viable option for Kazemi, but there has been no indication yet that he intends to go overseas to play. The competition at these high-profile schools will be much more challenging than that of the C-USA. However, Kazemi has always held NBA ambitions, even telling VOA News in 2011 that he would like to move on to the NBA after his junior year; his performance in a stronger conference could dictate whether he ever makes it to the highest level of professional basketball. Kazemi's departure is a resounding blow for a team that seemed to be on the up and coming after attaining a Collegeinsider.com Tournament playoff berth last season - its first postseason appearance since 2005. However, since the conclusion of last year's campaign, a massive exodus has taken place with six players leaving Braun's squad. The team had previously lost Jarelle Reischel to Rhode Island, Dylan Ennis to Villanova, David Chadwick to Valpariso and Ahmad Ibrahim to overseas play. Last week, Omar Oraby, a friend and room- mate of Kazemi, received a release to leave for USC as previously reported by the Thresher.  Head Coach Ben Braun acknowledged that there was a problem with the large number of departures and stated that he and Athletic Director Rick Greenspan are on a C-USA committee analyzing the current state of college basketball, including why so many players are transferring. Braun believes that a number of the transfers occurred because of a lack of playing time or a desire for an expanded role on the team. "We're in an instant gratification type society," Braun said. "There's a feeling sometimes that if you don't contribute immediately, you're failing." Braun also added that some players talked about a desire for more visibility and getting noticed by professional scouts more often. Jackson, the only current senior on the team, said he was unsure why the team has endured so many transfers, but he feels that the team chemistry is not the problem. "I don't really know why so many players left," Jackson said. "I'm guessing they feel it is better for them individually. But we all are friends and have lots of love for each other. We all consider ourselves as a family." Jackson also said he feels that Braun is not a part of the problem. "Coach Braun is a great leader," Jackson said. "He's been coaching for a very long time and has a lot of pro play- ers that came out of his program and changed the Rice basketball program tremendously. I feel he is a great coach and connects to his players very well, and I stand by him with no hesitation."The transfers of Kazemi and Oraby occur on the heels of Marco Morcos's departure from the team. During his time at Rice, Morcos, an Egyptian native, played a major role in recruiting - particularly in bringing Kazemi, Oraby and many of last year's recruiting class to the team, according to the Houston Chronicle. While Braun declined to comment on any potential role of Morcos in the departure of the players and Morcos could not be reached for comment, Jackson said he felt that Morcos was a reason behind the player exodus.  "His relationship with the players he recruited was great," Jackson said. "I do think their departure had to do with Coach Morcos ... I'm guessing because they were close to him."Morcos has left schools amid scrutiny over his recruiting practices in the past. Morcos previously coached high school ball at the LEAP Academy, a charter school in Newark, NJ. According to a document from the Commissioner of Education in New Jersey, while there, Morcos was involved in a scandal where three basketball players were ultimately deemed ineligible.  Two of the players came in from out of state and were wrongfully registered at the school, and a third was wrongfully given a  "Katrina waiver" to play immediately after transferring, although it was later discovered that the student was not affected by the hurricane. Marcos left the school for a position as Director of Basketball Operations at University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the LEAP academy was put on probation.  This infraction concerning the wrongful Katrina waiver is of particular interest since Oraby is currently seeking his own "hardship waiver" to forego the one year he would have to sit out according to NCAA rules.  Morcos has been invested in Oraby's career since his departure from Rice; according to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, Morcos actually joined Oraby on his trip to the USC campus.  Morcos' assumption of the position of Director of Basketball Operations at UAB coincided with a commitment from a player named Terrence Roderick, whom Morcos coached in AAU ball, according to Morcos' biography on the UAB website. When Morcos left for Rice after a year he was followed almost immediately by Roderick.  Moving into the future, Braun said he believes he needs to sell students on the true value of Rice. "We want to put together a staff and players who I believe will really succeed at Rice and really value their experience here," Braun said.  "We have to build that culture and then solidify it. We want players to think 'Maybe playing a few more minutes isn't worth transferring from Rice.'" Jackson also acknowledged the difficulty associated with retaining players. "There isn't really much a coach can do" Jackson said. "Players leave schools every year due to multiple reasons, and most of the time it is because of playing time.  But I guess players should always keep this in the back of their heads when deciding to leave a school or not: The grass isn't always greener on the other side, it is greener where you water it." In looking forward to next season, Braun said he and his staff will have to work toward rebuilding the team. The roster officially has six open spots, and the coaching staff will have to make the best of the situation by finding walk-ons or other athletes who can contribute at a high enough level to help the Owls overcome the loss of a the team's superstar and multiple promising players from last year's freshman class.  Jackson, however, is not deterred by the huge player turnover and its impact on the upcoming season. "The only problem I think that we are facing is people counting us out and talking down on us because of what is happening and not having faith in the guys we have" Jackson said. "Because we have already heard negative things about us on the internet and on campus, I just want to say, don't count us out just yet." Ryan Glassman and Bhagwat Kumar contributed to this article. 


SPORTS 9/16/12 7:00pm

Arsalan Kazemi receives release to transfer from Rice

Rice Senior Arsalan Kazemi requested a release from the team and received it on Monday. The 6-foot-7 forward had been the Owl's most valuable player, averaging 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in 2011-2012, making him one of only 21 NCAA division I players to average a double-double last season.





OPINION 6/19/11 7:00pm

RUPD officer unfairly terminated

The way I see it, if you believe that Officer David Sedmak's termination was entirely justifiable you're either joking, you don't know the story or you're about as sharp-witted as Rep. Anthony Weiner. Sedmak sprang into action after hearing the ominous "officer down" transmission on his radio. Disregarding the possibility of personal harm, Sedmak decided to risk himself by going into a "hot" area to help his uniformed brothers. He knew the Houston Police Department would have done the same for him. Officer Sedmak assisted in the resolution of the Greyhound Bus Station standoff and returned back to campus only to face the scorn of an administration devoid of humanity. Sedmak was terminated a month after his heroic actions. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Houston Business Journal's "Best Place to Work" for five years and running -- Rice University. It is unclear whether Sedmak called his location into dispatch; Sedmak says he did, while university officials dispute that claim. If, in fact, no call was made then protocol was broken. Officers are expected to check-in with dispatch and not leave campus without express permission; however, Sedmak simply did what he thought was right. Sometimes bureaucratic protocols and snap decisions just don't mesh. In the realm of law enforcement, life-saving, momentary decisions have to be made and a police organization such as RUPD should understand that. However for some uncertain reason, RUPD seems to be focused solely on Sedmak's "dereliction of duty." The man did not stroll down to Bombay Brasserie in the Village for some quality naan; he spent his shift trying to save the lives of downed officers. While the breach in RUPD rules may warrant a reprimand or suspension, the decision to terminate him is unbelievable. Sedmak's presence at the crime scene was voluntary and possibly not even necessary; but he was following his instinct and ultimately trying to be a good cop. Do the rules that Sedmak broke really outweigh that decision? Rice further defended its decision to terminate Sedmak by claiming that his departure from campus put its students at risk. However, anybody familiar with life at Rice will realize that this hollow defense is nothing more than a flailing attempt to give meaning to a meaningless decision. First, the May 7 episode took place after the conclusion of final exams and a majority of students had left campus. Those students who remained were still afforded protection by the other two officers on duty during Sedmak's shift. Second, Rice is notoriously safe. Our University isn't set in the middle of the projects, and RUPD is rarely forced to take action in order to preserve the sanctity of campus. Don't get me wrong, I believe that RUPD serves an instrumental role in ensuring that our campus continues to be one of the safest in the country; however, most would agree that the absence of one officer for one hour does not compromise campus security -- especially considering that other officers were on duty at the time. If anything, Rice's desperate outcry about compromised safety during that one hour erroneously paints Rice as a very unsafe place to the public. Relations between students and RUPD have become strained over the past 12 months. The alcohol crackdown has become a central policy debate at Rice, and RUPD's increasingly stern actions have drawn the ire of many students. Furthermore, many of the students aware of this situation are bemoaning the termination through social media, and the outcry would undoubtedly be much greater if this incident had occurred with school in session. Confidence in our police department seems to be declining, and this latest questionable decision will certainly not help that trend. The dynamic between the student body and campus police is an entirely separate discussion; however, it is obvious that the growing schism and distrust between the two sides is not optimal for campus safety. Had Sedmak's decision to go rogue saved the life of an officer on May 7, Rice would have undoubtedly tried to jump into Sedmak's national limelight and seize some of the credit being doled out by the national media. Plastered on the front of Rice's website would have been a predictable headline, "Who Knew: RUPD officers that protect Rice's campus could also protect Rice's city?" However, without a Hollywood ending to Sedmak's actions, RUPD administration was unable to come down from their Lovett Hall perch to see how heroic his actions were. Ironically, Rice's decision to fire Sedmak has yielded an entirely different type of national press, and Rice has to do some serious damage control to protect our otherwise pristine image. Unfortunately, no matter how Rice PR tries to frame this issue, RUPD administration will be on the losing side of the debate. The students know they are wrong. The public knows they are wrong. The media knows they are wrong. Rice must overturn this preposterous termination and return Sedmak's job -- if he even wants it back anymore.


OPINION 5/16/11 7:00pm

Ten things we can hope for in 2011-2012 at Rice University

As the university bids adieu to Rice's 98th graduating class, most of us have one, two or three more years to look forward to at Rice. While the MCATs, internships, research, and bumming of the upcoming summer buffer us from the 2011-2012 school year, here are 10 things I'm hoping to see when we get back.


OPINION 4/7/11 7:00pm

Vision's program fails to facilitate diversity

As prospies flood Rice's campus for Owl Days, current Rice students survey the high-schoolers with keen interest to catch a glimpse of what the Class of 2015 might look like. While Will Ricers are already busy looking for bikers to recruit, everyone else is busy gauging the prospective class' sociability, ability to integrate, and of course attractiveness. However, no matter how hard we seek to assess the class of 2015 through the Owl Day prospies, we will be unsuccessful because Owl Days omits a vital aspect of Rice — diversity.


NEWS 1/20/11 6:00pm

Rice University alcohol policy review: spring 2011

The Rice University alcohol policy and the future of its enforcement seems to be in question after a semester of unparalleled alcohol abuse this past fall. Something needs to be done, and ultimately it falls on everyone from students to staff to get together and act appropriately. Drastic action could jeopardize the essence of this university, but lack of response by students and administrators could result in unprecedented tragedy. This is the time to take notice, react and respond to a university issue that has the rare distinction of being universally relevant. This series of letters represents the collectivity of the burden and the numerous components that this crisis entails.


NEWS 4/8/10 7:00pm

Tiger Woods a terrible role model but terrific athlete

As a society, we have an outrageous propensity to idealize our athletes and entertainers. However, in the end they are no different from you or me - they have a single skill set and they get paid for it. We should respect the jobs that celebrities do, but the admiration needs to end right there. In the end, what Lil Wayne keeps in his tour bus, what Amy Winehouse snorts and who Jon cheats on Kate with is no business of ours. As a concerned member of society, I certainly don't approve of their actions, and I believe the judicial system should always interfere when necessary. However, I strongly disapprove of the media attention and gossip that surrounds these scandals for months at a time.