By Chris Sheridan
Of the 12-team field for the 2012 Olympics, eight of the 12 competitors are set: Team USA, Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Great Britain and Tunisia.
We’ll know the identity of the 9th — China or Jordan — before the end of the weekend.
If it is Jordan, led by former New Zealand national team coach Tab Baldwin, there will be one extra American athlete at the Opening Ceremonies in London. He is Rasheim Wright, a 30-year-old 6-foot-4 guard from Philadelphia’s Martin Luther King Jr. High School, who played collegiately at the Division II University of the District of Columbia, spent a few months in the D-League and spent last season playing professionally in Amman, Jordan. (Here is a FIBA link with his picture from the 2010 World Championship.) In high school, he played quarterback and was recruited to play football by Syracuse.
After leaving the D-League, he played in Tijuana, Beirut, Turkey, Sarajevo, Rome and Amman, and he scored 22 points in Jordan’s semifinal victory over the Philippines. (In the gold medal game, China will be favorited — in part because of their 33-point victory over Jordan in the preliminary round. After that, however, Jordan pulled off the upset of the tournament by defeating previously undefeated Iran in the quarterfinals. UPDATE: From Agence France Press: Teammates rip Haddadi.)
The Jordanian federation brought Wright into the national program several years ago (his Jordanian passport must be dog-eared quite a bit more than Bo McCalebb’s Macedonian passport), and he was profiled in 2007 by the Arab magazine NOX in an article entitled “The Reluctant Jordanian.”
NOX: So, if you’d rather not play here, how about living here?
RW: Honestly, it is a little different than what I am used to. I am not used to living in such a closed environment don’t feel very comfortable living here. But I guess it will get a little better now that my cousin Akeem is here and about to sign with a Jordanian team.
NOX: So, you enjoyed living in Lebanon more?
RW: Of course. Lebanon is like Europe. I played and lived there for two years. I had a great time, and I had no problem adjusting to the lifestyle.
NOX: Anything that has positively surprised you about Jordan?
RW: How beautiful the women are! The only problem is that they are afraid to be seen with you. They are afraid that anyone will know what they do, like they are afraid to be talked about.
In the other FIBA-Asia semifinal, Wang Zhi-Zhi had 15 points and nine rebounds and Yi Jianlian had a rare strong quarter in a meaningful game, with five points and four rebounds in the third period, to lead China past Korea 56-43. The Korean team shot 1-for-20 from 3-point range.