Assem Marei is a 25 year old 206cm forward from Cairo, Egypt playing his third professional season and second with medi Bayreuth. Currently he is averaging 12,6ppg, 6,7rpg and 1,5apg in the easyCredit BBL and 11,6ppg and 5,6rpg in the Basketball Champions League. Last season for medi Bayreuth he played 36 games averaging 11.9ppg, Reb-2(7.2rpg), 1.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 54.9%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 62.8%. In 2015-2016 he played his rookie season for BC Siauliai (Lithuania-LKL) playing 37 games averaging 12.1ppg, Reb-2(7.5rpg), 1.2apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 54.4%, FT: 53.6%; In the FIBA Europe Cup he played 6 games averaging 12.5ppg, 10.8rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 62.7%, FT: 64.7%; and in the Baltic League, he played 8 games averaging 12.3ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.0apg, 1.0spg, Blocks-5(1.1bpg), FGP: 58.3%, FT: 68.3%. He started his career with Al Zamalek (Superleague) and then played at Minn.St.-Mankato (NCAA2) from 2012-2015 olaying 85 games and as a senior played 20 games averaging 19.3ppg, 8.6rpg, 1.3apg, 1.8bpg, FGP: 62.6%, FT: 59.2%. He spoke to German Hoops after the Basketball Champions League loss to the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and before the BBL clash against the Fraport Skyliners.
Assem, thanks for talking to German Hoops. medi Bayreuth were denied a trip to the Basketball Champions League Final 4. How tough was this loss? You started out well in the first quarter, but from the second quarter until the end, you had to play catch up basketball. What was key for Ludwigsburg getting to the Final 4?
Their physicality and their aggressiveness played a huge part in their win. They are a good team with a deep roster, and they were in the same position last year with a one point deficit. It was a really tough loss but we are very proud of what we have done this year in the champions league.
Despite this loss, do you feel like this will motivate the team not to sink their heads and finish the season strong?
Yes of course, we need to come out with energy and concentrate on BBL games.
How does it feel being the first Egyptian player in the EasyCredit BBL? What have been your best experiences in Germany having this unique title?
I don’t really thing about it that way, but I’m grateful for this experience and I hope it will open doors for other Egyptians and portray my country in a good way. It was nice to see how much support I actually did receive from the fans, some of them would also show up to our games with an Egyptian flag and that meant a lot.
A big reason for the success of medi Bayreuth has been the team chemistry and head coach Raoul Korner. Did I miss anything or can you think of some other reasons why the team has been so good?
The Chemistry and energy, whenever we bring energy and physicality on defense we can beat any team.
Gabe York also mentioned in my interview with him during the cup weekend that medi Bayreuth has 10 very good players instead of five or six very good players that makes a big difference in the success. How have you seen the chemistry develop further this season?
I think us having a lot of the players back helped a lot developing the chemistry though out the year and how well the new guys fit in also helped us tremendously.
The team kept a big core of last season´s team and had to replace the key players Trey Lewis and Kyan Anderson with Gabe York and James Robinson. How do you feel did the club compensate the loses of last season´s players with the two new ones? Have York and Robinson been an upgrade or with due respect to last season´s players call it even?
Okay, trick question. Yeah we loss two great players last year but all of these players bring something different to the table.
Gabe York stated this about head coach Raoul Korner. “Coach Korner does a great job knowing the abilities of each player. He also knows when to put the right players on the court where the others will feed best off of them”. What other factors that Korner brings to the table have been vital for the team success?
Understanding the emotions of the players is also one of his good qualities.
Medi Bayreuth has many key players, but how valuable is Nate Linhart? He is the glue guy. Is he one of those guys where one can learn something new each day?
Yes of course, Nate is the X-factor of our team. He is well experienced and its fun to play with a high basketball IQ player. He makes your job a lot easier.
How much of a joy has it been working with Andreas Seifert? He has put up good stats and really made an improvement. Is he at the moment the teams most improved player from last season?
Yes…No doubt, it’s been fun going at it with him everyday in practice.
How vital has the healthy competition been and the daily battles in practice for the improvement of both players games? How have you complimented each other best?
Its been huge, I think it brings the best out of Andy and me as well. The fact that you can play at the games with no pressure knowing that both of us are a huge presence.
The club has lost a little focus having lost 4 of their last five games including giving up 100 points in the last three games. Has the team ran out of gas?
I don’t think we have run out of gas, I just think that every team has its peaks and ups and downs.
What has the team lost on the defensive side in the last three weeks? What needs to be fixed so the club will head into the playoffs strong?
We Lost focus, we need to bring a lot of energy on defense.
The next game is against the Fraport Skyliners who you lost a nail bitter to in the regular season and blew out in a cup qualifying game. You will see a totally revamped team as Philip Scrubb and Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann wil be back. Both teams will be very motivated to win. What kind of game can we await and what will be key to winning it?
Its going to be a very tough game, because they are a very good team. For us it will be on the defensive side more than anything.
You have a 3-1 record against the Fraport Skyliners and have scored in double figures in each game. Do the big men Mike Morrsion and Jonas Wolfarth-Bottermann fit your game so you can have a good chance to be successful?
I think they are both good defenders, and its going to be a battle going against them so we will see.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a 206cm forward with very good inside skills and have good athleticism. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would you pick.
I was a big fan of Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph’s game
Your not a modern big man as your lacking a three pointer. Is tis something in your game that you plan to try to incorporate into your game?
Yeah my mid range jumper.
You’re a guy that can fill the stat sheet well, but what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
My defense and my positioning.
You played your rookie season with BC Siauliai (Lithuania-LKL) playing 37 games: 12.1ppg, Reb-2(7.5rpg), 1.2apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 54.4%, FT: 53.6%; In the FIBA Europe Cup: you played 6 games: averaging 12.5ppg, 10.8rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 62.7%, FT: 64.7%; and in the Baltic League played 8 games averaging12.3ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.0apg, 1.0spg, Blocks-5(1.1bpg), FGP: 58.3%, FT: 68.3%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
I just came out of college hungry and excited for pro ball.
How important was it having American David Dudzinski as a teammate in Lithuania? He had had one professional season under his belt and had played in the NCAA and played your position. Did he make the first few months a bit easier for you on and off the court?
Yes of course, he was a great teammate and player that I learned a lot from. He made my rookie year a lot easier. We still keep in contact.
You played at Minnesota St. (NCAA2) from 2012-2015. After an incredible U-19 World Championship where you averaged 18.5ppg), Reb-2(12.3rpg), Steals-1(2.3spg), 1.0bpg, FGP: 52.4%, FT: 54.5%. Was the scholarship the main reason you turned down the NCAA and picked the NCAA2?
No the main reason was eligibility because I was only eligible to play one year in NCAA division I and three years in Division II, so I picked division II so I could get my degree as well.
How did head coach Matt Margenthaler groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career at Minnesota St.
He was a great coach and mentor that treated me like his own son and helped me through out my entire college career as I was far away from everything I knew.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Zach Romashko?
Oh come on now…
You played NBA Summerleague in 2016 with the New York Knicks. What kind of experience was that and what was your most memorable encounter with an NBA player, coach or legend?
It was kind of surreal to see people like Coach Phil Jackson and Patrick Ewing especially for a kid from Egypt.
You belonged to the best centers at the 2011 World Championships with Jonas Valanciunas. Does the fact that he made the NBA and you didn´t put a chip on your shoulder which has helped you develop as a player?
I am always trying to challenge myself and improve any way that I can, if that happens to lead to the NBA that would be great.
At the 2011 U-19 world championships, you got blown out 115-60 by the United States. What memories do you have of that game and what American stood out in that game for you? The two best known NBA players were Doug Mcdermott and Tim Hardaway Jr.
It was a lot of fun playing against those guys knowing that the majority of them were going to the NBA in a year or two. The guy that stood out to me at the time was Jeremy Lamb because he was athletic and NBA ready.
When you see a player like Jonas Valanciunas and yourself, do you feel like there is so much missing from getting an NBA chance?
I don’t really look at it that way but there are a couple of aspects of my game that I need to develop to have a legitimate chance.
Who was the toughest player that you faced in the NCAA that is in the NBA today?
No one that I can remember at the moment.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
Lebron is one of the greatest to ever do it, but I will have to take MJ.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
No I don’t feel like its fair because a lot of times the big man will box out and would expect one of the guards to hunt the ball down and get the rebound. Which is pretty common in todays basketball.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
It was a good year but I think that Kyle Kuzma is one of the picks that a lot of teams slept on along with Donovan Mitchell.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
I really think they do have a great shot but we will see. I´m excited to watch that as well.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
The Boston Celtics had the better deal, but the Cavs made good trades based off the players they got off of Kyrie.
What was your take on the Cavs wheeling and dealing sending away Thomas, Wade and Rose? How quickly will they be successful?
I think its pretty easy for any team to be successful with Lebron on their roster and they also have some good young players that can make some noise.
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder go this season with Westbrook, George and Anthony? Can they make a serious run in the west?
They struggled a little bit you can expect anything with those three big time players.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Veronica. (scary Spanish movie).
Thanks Assem for the chat