Photos by Tennessee Athletics
American basketball players Joseph Jones and Memphis, TN native J.P. Prince are unable to return to their overseas basketball team in Iran due to escalating events which all began last Friday when President Donald Trump gave an executive order to temporarily ban citizens and refugees of Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen from coming to the United States for a six month period.
Because of this action, Iran has since banned entry of U.S. citizens from entering their country as well. In addition, they are limiting visas to U.S. citizens.
Eric Fleisher, the agent for both players, told AP reporter Brian Mahoney on Monday he believes that Americans with valid visas will be able to return. However, both Prince and Jones’ visas have expired, leaving doubt for a chance at getting them renewed.
Fleisher told The Vertical on Sunday that the two teammates of Azad University Tehran were on a team-funded break in Dubai when President Trump inked the order last Friday. By the time the players tried to return home, Iran had already issued their own ban, causing the two players to be stranded in Dubai where they still are now.
Fleisher said normally it is the job of the club to arrange visas for their 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 to AP.
Jones, 30, played for Texas A&M during his collegiate years, averaging 12.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
Prince, 29, played two seasons with Arizona before transferring to Knoxville in 2007 where he grew into a household name in the SEC. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in three years with the Vols.
Growing up in Memphis, Prince lead White Station High School to three Tennessee state championships. During his senior season, he selected as Tennessee’s 2005 Gatorade Player of the Year, as well as Class 3A Mr. Basketball.
In 2009, when the Blue Raiders faced off against the Vols in Sommet Center (now Bridgestone Arena), Prince accounted for 17 en route to an MTSU loss, 75-54.
Prince took to facebook Sunday night, assuring everyone he is making the best out the situation.
In just their first season with Azad University Tehran, the two have already become the faces of the franchise as Prince leads the team in scoring with 19.3 points per game. Jones trails Prince, averaging 15.1 points per game. He does, however, lead the team in rebounds with 7.6 per game.
With just three games left in the regular season, Fleisher remains hopeful that the pair will be let back into Iran.
“We’re hopeful that they’ll be able to renew,” Fleisher told AP. “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?’ ”
If the two are unable to return, they could lose up to six figures.