San Antonio – When Nariman Ghavami first stepped foot in Texas 2 1/2 years ago, one thing stood out to the Iranian-born basketball player from Newcastle, England.

“Everything was bigger than what it was in Newcastle,” Ghavami said with a chuckle. “The buildings, the cars – everything.”

Thanks to Ghavami, the interior of the St. Mary’s men’s basketball team just grew in size, too.

The Rattlers have signed the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Ghavami, head coach Jim Zeleznak announced, adding considerable beef to their front line.

Ghavami, a freshman forward born in Tehran, Iran, most recently attended San Antonio College, where he did not compete athletically after moving to the U.S. with his family from his childhood home of Newcastle.

The Rattlers are certainly excited about what the big man can offer them, particularly when lined up next to star junior center/forward Kevin Kotzur (La Vernia, Texas).

“He’s certainly a presence inside,” said Zeleznak of the 21-year-old, who will major in biology at St. Mary’s and is expected to begin competing with the team during the spring semester. “His size will help Kevin just to go up against somebody on a daily basis that can physically overpower someone.”

But muscle isn’t all Ghavami will bring to the Rattlers, who open up their 2011-12 season against the University of the Incarnate Word on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.

“He’s got a combination of some low-post moves, and he can step out and shoot the ball effectively,” Zeleznak said. “The combination of those skills and what we do offensively lend itself to where, as soon as he gets comfortable, he’ll have a chance to make a contribution.”

And Ghavami, who attended high school at the Burnside Business and Enterprise College in England, is excited about that chance.

“It’s totally different than Iran or growing up in Newcastle,” he said. “But it’s been my goal to play basketball. I’ve just stuck with it, and now I have a chance.”

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