2 US basketball players, including former Tennessee star from Memphis, hope to return to team in Iran
The agent for two Americans who play professional basketball in Iran hopes they will be able to return to the country to finish their season.
J.P. Prince and Joseph Jones remain in Dubai, where they were during a break when President Donald Trump temporarily suspended immigration from seven majority Muslim countries. Iran is among them and officials there threatened retaliation against the U.S., including limiting visas to U.S. citizens.
Agent Eric Fleisher said Monday his understanding is Americans with valid visas will be allowed to re-enter Iran, and two American players did Sunday. The visas for Prince and Jones, however, have expired.
“The team unfortunately didn’t do it properly and so now they have to renew the visas and the question becomes whether they will be allowed to renew their visa,” Fleisher said.
“If not, they won’t be allowed to enter back into Iran. Their things are still in Iran. They won’t be able to continue for the remainder of the season with the club. If they can renew their visa, then presumably they’ll be allowed to re-enter and everything will be OK, but I don’t have an answer as of yet.”
Prince, who is from Memphis and went to White Station High School, played at Tennessee from 2007-10. Jones played for Texas A&M from 2004-08, and both have played professionally in various countries. Fleisher said it is usually the club’s responsibility to arrange visas for all players.
“In this case for reasons which I don’t quite understand they did not do it for the full season and as a result it expires during the season, which has put them into the crosshairs that they’re presently in,” Fleisher said.
Prince posted photos and videos of himself in Dubai onto his Facebook page Monday, writing that he could come home. Fleisher said both players want to return to Iran, saying they have had a positive experience.
For now, he said the club team, Azad University Tehran, is cooperating and working with Iranian officials to see if that can happen. If not, the players will have to figure out how to recover their items — and the salary they would presumably lose.
“We’re hopeful that they’ll be able to renew. If for some reason they’re not able to renew, that there will be an exception made on their behalf to enable them to come back in,” Fleisher said. “If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll address the contractual aspect of, ‘OK, they have a contract for the remainder of the season, how do we handle that part?'”