From the ever-busy In Case You Missed It Department comes the story of the recently played fifth Pan-Armenian Games, which went down in Yerevan in mid- to late August.
Suren Musayelyan of Armenia Now contributes to BallinEurope the story of Carl Bardakian, perhaps the key figure in the basketball sphere of the ‘Games; as a player, the Los Angeles native took tournament titles in 1999 and 2001, while in this game the former Cleveland State University assistant coached his L.A. side to the top of the 24-team field.
Los Angeles was led by Azusa Pacific University alum Mike Danielian, who was particularly brilliant in the final match with 49 points in Bardakian’s team’s victory over Russian side Sochi.
(Armenia Now) – Carl Bardakian of Los Angeles won Pan-Armenian Games twice with the Valley team in 1999 and 2001. Now, the former NCAA Division I assistant basketball coach has returned to Armenia a decade later to win the trophy with the Diaspora team as a coach.
Basketball was one of the 10 sports in which Armenian athletes from around the world competed at the Fifth Pan-Armenian Games in Yerevan on August 13-21. The events brought together more than 3,200 athletes from over 100 cities worldwide, including Los Angeles, home to North America’s largest Armenian Diaspora community. And the basketball tournament, especially its final game featuring Bardakian’s men’s team against rivals from Russia’s Sochi, which defeated Glendale in the semifinals, was the jewel in the Games’ crown, according to many observers.
In a highly contested championship game televised via satellite live to Armenia and the Diaspora, in the presence of hundreds of spectators at Yerevan’s Mika Gym, including Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan, Los Angeles defeated Sochi 93-86 in overtime to prevail in the competition of two dozen teams representing Armenia, Karabakh, Russia, Australia, Austria, Canada, Syria, Egypt, Georgia, Turkey, Argentina, France, Lebanon, Iran and the United States.
Bardakian, a United States representative to the Basketball Federation of Armenia, says he had some great moments returning to Armenia as a coach. “Without a doubt, the Fifth Pan-Armenian Games were the most meticulously organized, from the breathtaking opening ceremonies to the detail that went into seeding the top teams in the brackets,” he told ArmeniaNow after returning to his Los Angeles home.
Bardakian, 40, says the night before the championship game he told his team that they had a special opportunity to be acknowledged by Sargsyan. “I had been in this situation 10 years earlier as a player when president Robert Kocharyan attended our championship game, again against Sochi. I was able to relive a great experience, only this time as a coach with a great group of Armenian basketball players.”
The coach singled out the performance of L.A. team captain Mike Danielian, who scored more than half his team’s points (49) in the final game, and as a dual citizen of the ‘States and America is seeking a professional contract in Europe or elsewhere.
“Danielian was completely dedicated and focused on our team winning a championship in Armenia,” said Bardakian. “I am glad his relatives in Armenia were on hand to witness his spectacular 49-point performance in the finals. Danielian has earned his place in Pan-Armenian Games basketball history. I strongly believe Mike can play professionally in Europe. All he needs is an opportunity.”
Other members of the gold medal winning team included Artin Adjamian, Aret Akbork, Vahram Amayakyan, Zack Armen, Ara Demirjian, Kevork Demirjian, Eric Halejian, Andrei Taniel Oztemel and Ara Vartanian.
Glendale College assistant basketball coach Zorik Isajane and New York-New Jersey Armenian Churches Sports Association basketball representative Levon Altiparmakian served as assistant coaches.
While taking pride in winning the tournament, the winners also acknowledged the strong competition they faced in Yerevan. Zack Armen, a 26-year-old associate at Goldman Sachs Bank in the States, says that playing seven games within eight days was physically grueling and that none of the games were “total cakewalks.”
The basketball player, who had also participated in two previous Pan-Armenian Games, says having quite a few of the key players who had been in Armenia before played a huge role in the team’s ultimate success. “The opening ceremony was such a grand and epic scene. I’ll never forget walking through the stadium and seeing the lights and cameras and thousands of people waving,” said Armen, “And the championship game felt as though a nation of people was watching. It had a power and energy to it that was certainly more palpable this year.”
Unlike his teammate, Oztemel was visiting his ancestors’ land for the first time. The 20-year-old Business Finance major at Ithaca College stated that “The sense of cultural pride was amazing and getting to see your family’s history and where they came from is something I think everyone should try and experience at some point. I’m fortunate enough to have met and played with a great group of guys and proceeded to win a championship gold medal in my first Pan-Armenian Games. This was definitely an experience I will never forget.”