Egypt is not known for basketball and so when an Egyptian stands out and shows tremendous talent, he deserves to be recognized.
Assem Marie comes from a family where basketball is in their genes. Marei’s father, Ahmed Marei, averaged 2.3 points for the Egyptian Olympic team at the Los Angeles Games in 1984 before going into coaching.
As many kids before him, Marei grew up playing football. But when his family’s basketball genes started to kick in, he switched to basketball with the encouragement of his father, and he loved it.
At the age of 17, Marie was chosen as one of the 100 youth players from Africa to join a Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg sponsored by the N.B.A and FIBA – Basketball’s world governing body.
Having seen Marie’s potential, the assistant coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Bill Bayno kept in touch and tried to help Marei find a Division I program, especially after Marei showed even more promise at the 2011 FIBA under 19 world championships, averaging 18.5 points and 12.3.
He could have played anywhere in the country, but was not eligible as he suited up occasionally for Zamalek and had to sit out a season as an international transfer, making his Division I eligibility term even shorter.
But Bayno didn’t give up and steered Marei to Minnesota State in Division II where he became an essential player for the team. At Minnesota State, Marei trained hard, lost weight, added muscle and developed post moves off both low blocks. Proving his great potential, Marei was named first-team all-conference last season while leading Division II Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in points, rebounds and blocked shots per game.
Unfortunately, Marei had a knee surgery that stopped him from playing at FIBA’s World Cup Tournament where he could have built a higher profile, thus making his chances to playing for the NBA pretty slim. But with his talent and potential, Marei has a lot of eyes on him already and plans to head to Europe to play professionally and hopefully make a name for himself.
There’s only ever been one Egyptian who has played in the N.B.A. and though Marei might have missed his chance to be the second, he still holds exceptional skills that will make him an outstanding professional basketball player.
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