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Zamalek star Anas Mahmoud has 'tools and skills the NBA might like'

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Zamalek fans 'won't wear anything red' (1:02)

Former Cardinal Anas Mahmoud says Zamalek vs. Al Ahly is a stronger rivalry that Louisville vs. Kentucky, down to the colour cars people drive. (1:02)

After falling short of earning an NBA roster spot during last year's Summer League stint with the Toronto Raptors, Zalamek center Anas Mahmoud is determined to earn another shot through the Basketball Africa League.

Already a BAL champion with Zamalek, the 2.14m forward/center would not be the first Egyptian player in the NBA, but the two who have come before him - Alaa Abdelnaby and Abdel Nader - grew up in the US.

Mahmoud would be the first to have spent his formative years in Egypt before climbing to the world's top league, having left for his senior year of high school at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Florida, before attending college at Louisville from 2014-2018.

"I grew up in Zamalek. I learned basketball playing at Zamalek since I was eight. I played here all the way up until I went to the States. I went to college, came back and signed with them," Mahmoud told ESPN.

"Honestly, I think of myself as a member of the fanbase from Zamalek, but this [the NBA] could be my tool to carry Zamalek's name internationally. I will actually have to represent Zamalek and Egyptian basketball everywhere I go.

"At the end of the day, it's obviously like a family - a club that I'll always hold dear in my heart - but my professional career is something that I take completely seriously."

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Behind-the-back passes don't get better than this

Louisville's Anas Mahmoud splits the North Carolina defense with a sweet behind-the-back pass to Damion Lee, who finishes at the rim with a layup.

The former Cardinal earned his shot with the Raptors off the back of BAL victory last year and another triumph would make him a prime candidate for another NBA Summer League opportunity.

According to Ian Mahinmi, a 2011 NBA champion while playing center for the Dallas Mavericks, the 27-year-old Egyptian has the essential qualities to fight for a regular season roster spot.

Mahinmi told ESPN: "It's good to put two things into perspective: [Firstly], do I think he's NBA potential? [Secondly], is he an NBA player? I believe that he has tools and skills that the NBA might like.

"He's very athletic, he runs the floor well. I think he has a good understanding of where he needs to be on the court. He's a skilled big man that can pass the ball very well [and] that can bring the ball up.

"He has a lot of skills in his game that the game likes now for the center position, but it's always tricky with the league. I feel like all the stars have to be aligned to get an opportunity, so I believe that potentially, he has the tools and skills to [attain] a roster spot in the NBA.

"I want to encourage him to not give up and to pursue his dream. It's a tough business, but I'm definitely a big fan of his."

Mahmoud's career has produced several highs, among them Summer League stints with the Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, and Egyptian Super League titles in 2019 and 2021. Having earned the Defensive MVP crown in Zamalek's BAL win last year, he was then named the Egyptian Super League MVP shortly thereafter.

However, there have also been disappointments. Most recently, he picked up a shoulder injury while fighting for a defensive rebound at AfroBasket that kept him sidelined for five months.

Mahmoud returned to Egypt without having a chance to impose himself at the Raptors, but at Zamalek, he enjoys a more prominent leadership role on the court.

He said: "For Zamalek I have a different role to [what] I do at the Raptors in the Summer League, or if I make it on the roster for an NBA team.

"Everybody wants to show more. Everybody thinks: 'I can do more,' but at the end of the day, you go into an organisation and this is the role they need and this is the role that you try fit. It's the role that you're asked [to join] for."

Zamalek have a perfect record at the BAL this year and are favourites to defend their title, with a favourable quarter-final against Guinea's Seydou Legacy Athlétique Club seeing them emerge with the win, though not as convincingly as expected.

They next face US Monastir in the semifinals on Wednesday, though Mahmoud expects a stiff challenge from Angolan giants Petro de Luanda, who he expects to face in the final on May 28.

Mahmoud said: "Monastir is always going to be a tough team, [but] I honestly expect to play Petro in the final game, because they're on the other side of the bracket now.

"They're a really good team. If they continue to develop the way they have since last year, they could really, really be a great matchup in the final game."

The BAL airs on ESPN in Africa and on ESPN+ and ESPNNews in the US.