After missing out three times on the chance to play for his father’s home nation, ratiopharm ulm center Omar Samhan says he is “all the way in” on playing forEgypt at this summer’s AfroBasket in Ivory Coast.
The 24-year-old native of San Ramon, California will give the Egyptians a dominant force in the middle as well as a big man who can stretch the defense with an outside jumper.
“(The Egyptian federation) has talked a lot with my agent,” said Samhan, who stands 2.10m and weighs in at 122 kilos.
“They have a new coach this year and really this is the first summer for me being all the way in and playing all the way through. I think they are pretty excited and I know I am.”
Samhan also provides Egypt with a proven winner and someone with high level experience. In 2011, he helped Zalgiris Kaunas to the Baltic League and Lithuanian league titles while also playing in the Euroleague.
Samhan, whose father was born and raised in Egypt, has been close to playing for the African nation in the past.
While still at St Mary’s, Samhan said his coach Randy Bennett had asked him not to play during the summer. Then in 2011, the big man went through some preparations with the national team before the unrest broke out in the country.
“Everything was good to go but once everything started happening with the country and I had just come off the long Euroleague season, me and my agent said we should just take the time off and stay at home,” he recalled.
Last season, Samhan went down with a torn ACL and missed the entire 2011-12 campaign. He was still without a job this season until February when German side Ulm brought the big man in to give them another option in the low post behind reigning BBL league MVP John Bryant.
“It’s awesome. It’s great to be back,” said Samhan, who is also considered a great team presence with his joking demeanor.
“There was a chance I wasn’t going to play this season and I was pretty upset about that. And then to not only go to a good team but to go to a contender is unbelievable. It’s like a dream come true.”
When asked about his expectations for Egypt this summer, Samhan said: “Just to play. It’s time that we reach the top three in Africa. Eventually, our goal is to participate in the next Olympics. I think we need to make that push every year to become the best team in Africa.”
“I think we can be a great team. I think there are pieces that we’re still lacking that if we can get we can definitely be a threat.”