Narbeh Ebrahimian walks on to NCAA basketball's biggest stage

Narbeh Ebrahimian walks on to NCAA basketball's biggest stage

Why not forgo smaller schools to attempt to be a walk-on at a Division I school? Why not sneak into the gym for tryouts?

Why not wait in the dark for two hours until the coaches arrived? Why not?


Narbeh Ebrahimian thought he'd simply try to play for the San Diego State men's basketball team in 2011.

He had already been a standout point forward at Crescenta Valley. He was a captain and his team's most valuable player at Glendale Community College.


He didn't want quit playing basketball, so he tried out for San Diego State instead of playing at a possible Division II school that promised more playing time.

He walked into a dark gym — actually sneaked into a dark gym — and waited two hours for his opportunity to show the San Diego State coaches that he could play, that he was smart enough to play Division I basketball and that he was he strong enough to contend with bigger players.

Ebrahimian was good enough to make the team.

He's been good enough to stay on the team, too.


Ebrahimian and the seventh-seeded Aztecs will travel to Philadelphia to play 10th-seeded Oklahoma on Friday in the South Regional in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In his senior year, Ebrahimian knows he likely won't play against Oklahoma. He's played in eight games this season for the Aztecs (22-10), totaling 17 minutes and four points.

He'd love to be playing on Friday and even though he likely won't, he's proud to be a part of something "special."

"The reality is I'm not going to play a second," Ebrahimian said. "Being a part of it is something special, though."

The 6-foot-3 Ebrahimian was a special player at Crescenta Valley, where he rarely sat down and became an All-Pacific League selection before graduating in 2009.

"He's one of the hardest working kids I've coached," said CV Coach Shawn Zargarian, who coached Ebrahimian for three years on the varsity level. "He was a kid who got the most, if not more, from his God-given talents. He was very disciplined and hard working. Even for us, he played all five positions. The main reason we were able to do that is because he's so smart. In any situation, he knows exactly what to do.

"He brings so much to the table."

Ebrahimian's experience as a Falcon led him to the Vaqueros, where he became a leader on the court with his team-first mentality. He was announced as the starting point guard at Glendale college. If he needed to be a shooting guard, he'd fill that role. Play small forward? No problem. Power forward? Not an issue.


"He knew where each guy was supposed to be at all times," said Glendale college Coach Brian Beauchemin, who'll watch San Diego State's game, as well as UCLA's first-round game against Minnesota on Friday, with the Bruins featuring junior center Sooren Derboghosian, who also played for the Vaqueros.

"He knew where to put the ball and how to guard a point guard and a forward."

It was the skills that he learned at Glendale college that allowed Ebrahimian — who was an All-Western State Conference first-team honoree for the Vaqueros — to beat out others for a spot on the San Diego State roster.

"If I didn't have that experience at Glendale college, I probably wouldn't have made it at San Diego State," Ebrahimian said. "I learned a lot at Glendale college."

At the San Diego State tryouts, Ebrahimian said there were "pretty decent" basketball players. But he knew how to come off screens, how to make a back-door cuts, how to stop a guard and a forward and how to excel with a team.

The transition to sitting on the bench wasn't easy, though.

"It's definitely different, going from high school, playing every minute, to GCC to playing every game to playing zero minutes," Ebrahimian said. "It's hard. It's not easy. But I'm a total team guy. ... I do the best that I can do. I push the guys as hard as I can.

"It's definitely a different perspective. You're not watching it more as a fan, but more of a coaching perspective. You see what coach sees. It's interesting. It's a whole different game. In the end, it's been a great experience."

San Diego State senior forward Deshawn Stephens experienced playing against Ebrahimian while playing for Santa Monica City College.

Ebrahimian hasn't changed his attitude while practicing against Stephens.

"Narbeh was always and is always the hardest working man on the floor, regardless of who is playing," Stephens said. "It's like his motor never stops.

"Narbeh is one of the biggest parts of our team. By him not playing, he's still there. He shakes everybody's hand. He's always there for you at all times, off the court and on the court. He's reliable."

Ebrahimian said San Diego State has the talent to advance to the Sweet 16, just like it did two years ago.

Stephens said the Aztecs could advance to the Final Four.

Why not?