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Egyptian trio Oraby, El Gendy and Elgizawy reflect on coming up the ranks


CAIRO (Egypt) - Omar Oraby, Amr El Gendy and Karim Elgizawy are three accomplished players who have come through the ranks in Egyptian basketball. 

While Oraby and El Gendy are part of the present in Egyptian basketball, El Gizawy represents the prospects of the North African nation. 

The trio may come from different generations, but they do share commonalities, like being teammates at the club and the senior national team level. Also, all three have won the U18 African Championship at different stages.  

The Al Ahly Sporting Club players spoke to FIBA.basketball about their experiences with the Egyptian national team structures and their contribution to their country's success.

Karim Elgizawy is seen here controlling the ball in the 2022 FIBA Africa Championship final against hosts Madagascar

When Oraby and El Gendy, now veterans, won the 2008 FIBA U18 African Championship team on home soil, Elgizawy was a toddler. 

But the 19-year-old would follow in the footsteps of his Al Ahly SC teammates 14 years later (2022) by winning with the Egyptian U18 team in Madagascar.

El Gizawy, also a winner of the U16 FIBA continental title in 2021, says he is always proud to represent his country, and the experience has taught him how to handle responsibility. 

Egypt celebrate the 2021 FIBA U16 African Championship in Cairo

"It's always an honour to represent Egypt - from the youth teams to where I am now," said Elgizawy. "Playing in the youth teams made me feel responsible early in my career. As young players, we learnt what it means to carry a national team. It was a big responsibility for us."

He reflected on winning the U16 and U18 titles. "Winning the titles in those years was a great feeling for us and the country," said Gilzawy.

"In Madagascar, there were tough teams like Mali and Senegal. Madagascar had a big fan base (in 2022). We had to work so hard because they were tougher than us. We had to play smarter instead of trying to match up physically."

The 32-year-old Oraby says the 2008 continental youth tournament helped propel his career and those of his teammates.

Thanks to Egypt's 2008 U18 African Championship, the Pharaohs qualified to the 2009 U19 FIBA Basketball World Cup (pictured above) held in New Zealand 

"It was a great feeling to win our first championship, being 16 or 17 and winning on our home court in Alexandria. The atmosphere was great because we had people coming from all over Egypt to support us," said the former University of Southern California Trojan.

"It gave us a push to continue our careers and take it (basketball) more seriously. It was the starting point of our careers as most of those players have gone on to have professional careers." 

El Gendy had a memorable tournament 14 years ago. Along with the championship title U18 African Championship, he finished as the leading scorer and scooped the tournament MVP award. The combo guard spoke from the page as Oraby about how that competition launched his pro career.

"I remember I was the top scorer and MVP of that tournament. It was one of the main reasons I pushed for a professional career. I became known in Egypt after that tournament," said 32-year-old El Gendy. "A year later, I was part of the national team. I also joined my first professional team. I have been going for 15 and 16 years now." 

Omar Oraby made his World Cup debut last year in the Philippines

Big man Oraby attributes the success of Egypt at the junior level to an ecosystem that concentrates on the youth. 

"We put a lot of focus on the youth. I don't think other countries do that. It has allowed many players to go to college in the US and continue playing pro in Egypt or overseas," said Oraby. " 

Al Gendy added: "We have small tournaments for the under 16 and under 18 groups who will compete in the continental championships of that year. During that time (of the local competition), the players camp for two or three months. They also play in front of huge crowds, which allows them to experience playing under pressure. That process is part of why Egypt is successful."

A 23-year-old Amr El Gendy is seen here facing Brazil's Leandrinho Barbosa at 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup

The trio are eyeing more success on the continent, but this time at the club level. Al Ahly SC, who are 3-0 in their Nile Conference campaign, will look to defend the Basketball Africa League (BAL) title they won last year.

El Gizawy has enjoyed a taste of the tournament and appreciates the guidance of the senior players.

"This has been a great experience. I have come through the youth ranks at Al Ahly SC. So this is my home. The senior players have welcomed and trust me," said El Gizawy. "They (senior players) are putting me on the right path on and off the court. They encourage me to put in extra work... The things that will help me earn more minutes life playing hard on defence."

While mentoring young thoroughbreds Elgizawy and Loyola University-bound Seifeldin Hendawy is important, El Gendy and Oraby have also kept an eye on their BAL title defence.

"They remind me of my younger self when I was coming up. I have shared my experience with them and tried to take the pressure off them. Hopefully, they surpass what we have achieved and achieve great things for Egypt and wherever their careers take them," said El Gendy.

Oraby spoke on Al Ahly SC retaining the BAL title. He is aware there will be a target on their back. "We are the defending champs, and our main goal is to keep the trophy here in Egypt. We expect every team to go hard at us, which is something are used to," concluded Oraby.