Julio Chitunda's African Message

Oraby working on NBA dream

SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - Egypt basketball has never been so much in the spotlight as it currently is, and Omar Oraby has just added more attention to it.

Although the 22-year-old wasn't selected in last month's Draft, his dream of becoming the second Egyptian - after Alaa Abdelnaby - to play in the NBA has just begun.
On Sunday, the 2.18m center made his NBA Summer League debut with the Houston Rockets contributing two points, two rebounds and a block shot in seven minutes of action, although the Rockets suffered their fourth defeat in five games.

Oraby is just one of the many young Egyptians who, in the recent years, has chosen to follow in the footsteps of Abdelnaby, a former Duke University standout and NBA player selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 25th pick in the 1990 Draft.

Although Oraby only heard of Abdelnaby when he received a scholarship to develop his basketball and academic career in the United States, it never limited his dream of playing in the NBA.

Houston has been connected in one way or another to the player's basketball career.

It was there that Oraby first met and talked to his childhood idol Hakeem Olajuwon.

At the 2008 Basketball Without Borders Africa camp in Johannesburg, South Africa, Oraby practiced under former Houston Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo.

His fellow countryman Omar Samhan spent the 2011 pre-season practicing with the Rockets, and Houston was one of the places he lived in when he left his native Giza.

Houston has to mean something to Oraby when it comes to his NBA dream.

Nevertheless, judging by his performance against the Trail Blazers on Sunday in Las Vegas, I have to say that the Egyptian has a long way to go - but not impossible - to earn a place on the Rockets' final roster.

Just ask Andy Enfield, his college coach at Southern California, who will tell you what the Egyptian big man needs to do to succeed in his attempt to enter the NBA.

"He is very effective. It is just a matter of learning how to play at NBA level. Sometimes Omar does not realize how good he is. I have to remind him. 'Hey you are the best big man on the court,'" he said.

Earlier this year, well before the Las Vegas Summer League, during an interview with a CBS local channel, Oraby revealed his basketball dream.

"It does not get any better than that. Playing at the highest level with the best players in the world. It's anyone's dream to get to the NBA," he said.

When I say that Egyptian basketball has never been so much in the spotlight, I am thinking about the prospect of Oraby leaving the summer league and joining his national team's preparation for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Egypt head coach Amr Aboul Kheir has never hidden the desire of having his best performers in Spain 2014, and that means including the likes of Oraby - who represented his country at the 2009 U19 FIBA World Championship for Men in Auckland, New Zealand - or Assem Marei, a standout at Minnesota State University.

Regardless of what Oraby's summer league experience might be, he is likely to feature for his country at the World Cup and could face a number of NBA big men, including Spain's Pau and Marc Gasol, Brazil's Tiago Splitter, and France's Alex Ajinca.

Julio Chitunda


FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Julio Chitunda

Julio Chitunda

With African Message, Julio Chitunda sheds light on the state of basketball in the world's second largest continent. A former semi-professional player and journalism graduate from Lisbon, Chitunda has covered the sport since 1998. After starting out in Portugal by providing coverage for several media organisations, he became a contributor to fiba.com in 2004. He is a fervent advocate of basketball in Africa and through his column will look at the game on all levels throughout the continent.