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American Dream

Posted: January 28, 2008 3:54 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2008 2:02 a.m.

College of the Canyons guard Behrang Behjoo came to the United States from Sweden because he wanted an opportunity to play competitive basketball. That opportunity has come as a member of the Cougars this year.

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It wasn't that long ago that Behrang Behjoo found himself playing pick-up games against himself.

Such is the life for a Swedish kid who decided he liked jump shots and dunks a lot better than running around on the soccer pitch.
Now, the College of the Canyons guard has a team to play with. He just had to travel about 5,500 miles to get it.
His story starts in Iran, the country his parents are from. With all the turmoil brought about by the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s, Behjoo's parents decided to immigrate to Sweden about 20 years ago.
Not long after that, Behjoo, now 19, was born.
The Cougars freshman guard grew up playing what any Swedish kid would - soccer.
Eight years ago, Behjoo was introduced to the game of basketball by a friend's dad, who was from Yugoslavia and played professionally there.
Behjoo the soccer player quickly became Behjoo the basketball player.
"I was the only kid who played basketball," he says. "I didn't care. I used to play with myself full court games. I'd pretend I was five players and I just used my imagination."
That wasn't the only thing Behjoo was using his imagination for. Almost as soon as he started shooting a basketball, the boy who was fluent in Swedish, Farsi, and English wanted to come to America.
"It's always been a dream for me," Behjoo says. "I've been doing sports all my life. Sports aren't that big in Sweden."
About the same time Behjoo's parents picked up their lives and moved from Iran to Sweden, his aunt moved to Woodland Hills.
Two summers ago, Behjoo came out for a visit.
"That really sparked it," says Behjoo about wanting to come to the United States. "People just play (basketball). I had people to play with. It was a nice change. People would help me out, give me pointers."
After looking at a couple of junior colleges, Behjoo said he accidentally found COC, and contacted the school about wanting to play basketball.
The new freshman said the adjustment to the American style of the game was a little rough.
"When I came over the first week I was getting pounded by everyone," he says. "I was getting knocked to the floor everyday in practice."
Teammate Gerardo Zuniga gets a smile on his face at the mention of Behjoo's first weeks on the team.
"After he played for a couple of weeks, I saw he knew the game, he just wasn't conditioned. It didn't take long for him to get stronger," the sophomore says. "He got knocked down a lot."
Zuniga says Behjoo is "one of the guys" now.
If there's any indication of that, it might be the razzing he gets from the teammates that trickled into the gym after practice a couple of weeks ago.
"He was quiet. I couldn't get words out of the guy," Zuniga says about Behjoo's first weeks. "Now he talks too much, I think."
Now that Behjoo is one of the guys with teammates, he's also one of the guys on the court.
It didn't take long for the 6-foot-2 guard to find his way to the starting lineup this season for the Cougars, getting the nod the first week of the season.
"He picked things up quickly," says COC head coach Howard Fisher. "He's got good fundamentals, a good base. I think coaches picked up on that relatively quickly. We knew he was going to contribute early on."
Behjoo has played in 17 of the team's 18 games (through Jan. 22), and averages 4.4 points per game. He's third on the team in assists with 29.
The freshman keeps his parents updated often with what's going on in his life here in America. He said when they speak it's a combination of Swedish and Farsi.
"They were really supportive," Behjoo says. "My dad was doing a lot of things for me, getting information for me. I talk to them every week. They said, 'Take care of school and basketball. This is your dream.' They've been really supportive."
As much as he wanted to come to America to play basketball, Behjoo's other dream is just as important to him, and that's earning his master's degree in kinesiology. He says no matter what happens in his basketball future, he'd like to stay in America to finish school. He may stick around after his schooling is finished to be a trainer for athletes, because he said the best athletes in the world are here.
The freshman has just one complaint about America - the buses.
In Sweden, Behjoo said people his age don't drive, they take buses to get around.
"Santa Clarita is a small town, but it's still big in a strange way," he says. "Everyone (in Sweden) takes the buses everywhere. Here, if I want to take the bus, I have to wait, time it. Everything else I adjusted to easy."


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