This might be the most athletes from the MENA Region to be playing in NCAA Division 1 Basketball at the same time! Basketball has been on the rise in the MENA Region and the results are CLEAR. More than 10 Arabs in division 1 basketball and the number will only go up from here. There are currently no seniors playing D1 meaning that the next class of high school graduates will only add to the pool of Arab athletes in division 1 ball. Let’s look at these superstars representing the MENA Region ahead of the 2022-2023 season.
Youssef Khayat – University of Michigan Wolverines
Yoyo, Lebanon’s golden boy, is coming off an explosive year. First, his performance explosion with the French side Limoges CSP U21 team, recording increases in all stats across the board but most eye-popping was his doubling of points per game from 8.2ppg to 16.8 ppg.
To back that up yoyo went on to aid the Cedar’s National Team in securing a medal in the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup. He clocked 14.7 minutes averaging 5.3 ppg, along with 1.2 SPG and 0.5 BPG.
With that being said the 6’9″ Lebanese Unicorn will play in one of the most competitive conferences in the NCAA. He will have ways to go as he is still a freshman and will be learning how to deal with everything a student-athlete at that level has to deal with.
Other than that, Khayat is a true basketball unicorn. He is a 6’9″ wing/forward with a 6’10” wing span that can handle the ball, shoot off the catch or the dribble, finish with both hands and comfortably over the rim. He plays hard-nosed defence and is adept at utilizing his wing span and disrupting the passing lanes getting lots, of deflections and steals. Yoyo looks like the most probable hooper to ever make it to the NBA and he will have Former NBA player and now div 1 coach, Juwan Howard to guide him along the way.
Aly Khalifa – Charlotte 49ers
Khalifa is coming off an ELITE freshman showing. Aly, as a freshman, started 30 of 31 games, averaging 7.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.5 APG led the league in Assist to Turnover ratio. He did that while shooting 47% from the field, 35% from beyond the arc, and 72.5% at the charity stripe.
This is no guard we’re talking about, Aly is a big 6’10” center who can do it all and coaches can run their offence through him because they know he will create the right play for the team. Almost like Jokic in his style of play.
The strong freshman performance from Aly earned him six C-USA Freshman of the Week, and C-USA All-Freshman Team honours, and was named C-USA Freshman of the Year.
Aly the product of Egypt and NBA Academy set the bar high for himself as he always does, and will be THE player to follow as he goes into his sophomore season.
Essam Mostafa – Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
The big man out of Egypt is a force of nature in the paint. Using his high motor and physicality, Essam is a dominant big who will control the pace of the game from the paint. His physicality and athleticism allow him to lockdown other bigs in the low post while bullying them on the other end.
Essam is very adept at helping and getting back to his man rarely getting caught out of position. His ability to read plays and the trajectory of the ball gives a boost to his physicality and athleticism which makes him so efficient in getting rebounds on both sides.
What gets us excited for the 2022-2023 season is that we know he’s been in the gym working this summer like he was last summer. And if we look at the jump he made from year 1 to year 2 we are almost certain he will take a similar jump in year 3.
Essam has continued his rise from his freshman to his sophomore year and now we will be looking on as he takes yet another jump in his junior year.
Muzamil “Zee” Ameer – Utah State Aggies
The Bahrain phenom is the first ever Bahraini to play division 1 basketball. We look forward to seeing more of Zee on the floor than in his freshman year.
Zee appeared in 28 games averaging 7.9 MPG and 2.6 PPG. We will be looking for him to play more minutes and give us more of his juicy highlights. Just to remind you Muzamil was very dominant in both U18 GBA Qualifiers scoring 23 PPG and in the more competitive Asia Cup Qualifiers in 2021 dropping 11.4 PPG and 6.8 RPG.
Big Zee will have a jump in performance this year and a more important role with the Aggies and we will be there to make sure to share his story.
Zeineddine “Zinou” Bedri – Columbia University Lions
Zinou has been fun to watch develop over the years. From Spring Creek Academy to DME Academy, to now a new home at Columbia University, the Algerian native has stepped it up year after year.
Zinou is a 6’10” combo forward who can pretty much do it all. First is his freak athleticism catching multiple bodies in the past couple of years. He has crazy vert and reach aids him in swatting away shots at the rim.
He is a skillful back-to-the-basket player with an arsenal of a deep bag of footwork. Combine that with sheer athleticism: a recipe for success.
On top of that Zinou has expanded his bag to include perimeter shooting and attacking of the dribble. While still learning and developing a perimeter game he has shown great potential at becoming a solid wing player. Can’t wait to see what Zinou got for us this season!
Lojain “Logy” Elfatairy – University of Cincinnati Bearcats
The best 3-point shooter award recipient in the African U16 FIBA Championships is looking for redemption season this year. Logy is coming into her sophomore season with more experience and got used to the pace of D1 basketball.
We know that she will have a more important role on the team as 6 of the 13 current roster members are seniors and will have more playing time so she can better prepare for her Junior year in the 2023-2024 season.
Lojain is a terrific shooter, ball-handler, and facilitator. As she learns and develops more she will be able to provide valuable minutes to Cincinnati Bearcats in the coming season and beyond.
Omar El Sheikh – Arkansas State Red Wolves
Sheiks one of the OGs that played in the U17 FIBA World Cup on Egyptian soil back in 2017. Sheiks collegiate career started with Fairfield University, a D1 school, where he played 23 games in his first season and only 10 games in his second season due to injury.
After his injury Covid hit and this was a good shift in Sheiks’ career. He moved on to a play for Assumption school, a D2 school, and was able to average 12 PPG and 11 RPG. This put him 3rd Nationally in Rebounds and tied 6th for Double-Doubles Nationally.
Sheiks looks to get back to the faster-paced D1 and put his stamp as he did with Assumption College. Sheiks is coming to Arkansas as a veteran who has been around the league and will provide solid help to the team.
Alaaeddine “AB” Boutayeb – Arkansas State Red Wolves
AB joins his North African brother, Sheiks, as they both will play for the Red Wolves this season. AB had a different path though. The 7’2″ Moroccan forward came from the French U21 League “L’Espoires” from 2018 to 2021. During his last year, Boutayeb averaged 9.1 PPG along with 4.8 RPG.
Since then AB came to the United States after his last season in France got cut short by Covid. Once in the US Boutayeb wasted no time in getting Division 1 offers. He first committed to FSU before changing courses and joining Arkansas State Red Wolves.
AB is a long big forward who has been working on his shooting and shot-creating abilities. Within the right system, Boutayeb can turn into a deadly wing that can score from all levels and be a rim protector. Looking forward to seeing how he performs with Arkansas this season.
Ismael “Ishy” Massoud – Kansas State Wolves
Going into his Junior year Ishy looks to make it a statement year. After moving from Wake Forest to Kansas and ended up starting and playing more minutes than he did at Wake Forest.
Ishy is a sniper from behind the arc. He provides veteren leadership for Kansas State along of his shooting capabilites. With 3 years of division 1 ball under his belt and a year getting adjusted to a new system, Ishy is in for a breakout year!
Jeremiah Bembry – Florida State University Seminoles
Jeremiah is a freshmen going into a deep rostered FSU team. While he might not get many minutes to start, Jeremiah has a lot to offer. He’s a good combo guard, able to facilitate or score, with arsenal of one pull up jumpers and all types of finishes at the rim.
Jeremiah plays hard nose defence and is committed to giving his all every game. For sure that is what FSU saw in him and we hope to see him get valuable minutes in the upcoming season.