Marei Wants To Qualify Again For The World Cup

Assem Marei of Egypt says that the sensation of qualifying for the FIBA Basketball World Cup is incomparable, and the fact that he is so close to doing so is what is keeping him highly motivated during the African Qualifiers.

Egypt has emerged as one of the frontrunners to secure one of the remaining four tickets for African teams to compete in the World Cup in 2019, which will be held in Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines. Egypt currently holds a record of 7-2 in the African Qualifiers, and they still have three games left to play.

When Marei thinks back to how he motivated Egypt in 2013, when they were considered underdogs, to clinch one of the three African tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Spain, he says that it was “The best feeling I had in my career.” Marei is now 21 years old.

Back in those days, Egypt traveled to Abidjan for the AfroBasket, which doubled as a qualification tournament for the World Cup, with a youthful team that was short on players. And to make matters even worse, they ended the Group Phase with a record of 0-3, which means they were eliminated.

However, in a surprising change of events and against the overwhelming odds, Marei and his teammates were able to pull off the biggest surprise of the competition by knocking off the tournament’s then-current winners, Tunisia, in the round of 16.

Although this was only Marei’s second consecutive AfroBasket trip in a span of two years, he led his squad with the poise of a seasoned veteran. Yossef Aboushousha, Anas Mahmoud, and Wael Khedr, all of whom are currently playing for Egypt and were all members of that historic group of players in 2013, are all currently playing for Egypt.

And by the time Egypt reached the Semi-Final against the favorite Senegal, a team they had already lost to early in the tournament, Egypt were no longer considered to be the underdogs in the matchup.

The previous African champions not only dominated the game with a smothering and tenacious defense, but they were also unstoppable offensively, which allowed them to sneak away with a victory of 70-63 and insured that they would automatically qualify for Spain 2014 in the process. If Senegal won the Third-Place game and beat the hosts of the tournament, Cote d’Ivoire, they would also qualify.

In the end, Marei decided not to compete in the World Cup. For the time being, it seems to Marei like an unfinished business.

When asked about the significance of the World Cup, the 30-year-old responded, “Of course I want it [play in the World Cup, badly], but I feel that the best feeling I can have is to help qualify the country.”

Marei, who spent the previous season playing for the South Korean team Changwon LG Sakers, has been a significant asset for Egypt. In the six games that have been played in the African Qualifications, he has averaged 13.2 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds. With him in the team, Egypt’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup improve to 5-1.

Marei emphasized that “When we qualify I feel like the goal is done,” and then went on to say, “Obviously, we have to represent our country to the best of our ability when we travel to the World Cup, and I would love to play there.”

“The game we won in the semifinals against Senegal to advance to the final against Angola nine years ago was the most satisfying experience I’ve had in my professional career. I am making an effort to recapture that sensation.”

The 2.06-meter (6ft 9-inch) forward is quick to point out that Egypt’s current team “has a lot of individuals coming off the bench bringing a lot of great things to the team.” He makes this observation after examining Egypt’s current roster.

It is commonly believed that the Canadian Roy Rana, who has been the captain of the Pharaohs for the past year and a half, is responsible for introducing a more aggressive and contemporary spirit to the club.

Rana admitted that despite everything that had happened, their group had remained incredibly resilient and tenacious.

“They are aware of that. That’s the name of the game. The most important thing is to keep your head in the game and play possessions, which is exactly what we have done in every single one of our games up until this point with the exception of our first match in Dakar against Senegal. In that regard, I believe that we have been doing very well. It did not come as a surprise to me.”

Marei has been one of the most productive players in the African Qualifiers so far thanks to the fact that he has recorded two double-doubles in a total of six games and is now ranked second with a field-goal shooting percentage of 57.7.

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