Ex-Rice star Kazemi eyeing Oregon, Kentucky among transfer options

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Former Rice star Arsalan Kazemi told SI.com that he's likely to decide on a transfer destination by the end of the week, and that while he's considering a number of options, Oregon and Kentucky are his "early leaders."

The senior power forward said he intends to petition the NCAA for a hardship waiver to play in 2012-13 rather than sitting out a transfer year, but declined to specify the grounds of the waiver request. Kazemi received his release from Rice on Monday -- news that was first reported by CBSSports.com -- and asked permission to speak with Cincinnati, Florida, Ohio State and Texas in addition to the Ducks and Wildcats. He said that list could potentially expand in the coming days.

Kazemi, who in 2009 became the first native Iranian to play Division I basketball, and is a member of Iran's senior national team, averaged 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds as a junior for the Owls. He was expected to be a Conference USA Player of the Year candidate as a senior.

Kazemi said that rumors that he would turn professional in Europe or the Middle East were unfounded, and that he intends to finish his undergraduate degree at his transfer destination. Oregon is the lone school on Kazemi's list that has yet to start fall classes -- its first day is Sept. 24 -- and thus may be his most attractive option if he pursues a hardship waiver to play immediately.

Kazemi is the sixth player to leave the Rice program this offseason, following a 19-16 campaign under fifth-year coach Ben Braun. Center Omar Oraby left last week for USC; prior to that, David Chadwick transferred to Valparaiso, Dylan Ennis transferred to Villanova, Jarelle Reischel transferred to Rhode Island, and Ahmad Ibrahim opted to turn pro overseas.