Memphis PG Jeremiah Martin is embracing his role as a leader with the Tigers after a transfer-filled offseason.
Mark Giannotto/The Commercial Appeal

The sweat dripped from Karim Sameh Azab’s forehead as he walked around the University of Memphis campus Friday, and a question about the weather prompted the 6-foot-11 Egyptian to reflect on what he left behind to chase his college basketball dreams.

Though the summer temperatures are often hotter in Giza, Egypt, than Memphis this time of year, the humidity is far worse here than the desert climate on the west bank of the Nile River. But the memories of where Azab came from, even something as simple as the sweltering heat, are beginning to fade.

“I really can’t remember. I haven’t been home in three years,” he said. “You can’t be thinking about stuff like that. You’ve got to keep your head up and just keep going.”

This narrow focus has served Azab well during a turbulent journey. He is the tallest member of the Memphis men’s basketball team and, at this point, also its biggest mystery.


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He didn’t arrive at Memphis until October, a week after preseason practices began, and NCAA eligibility issues forced him to miss the entire 2016-17 season. During that time, the 20-year-old dropped 40 pounds and developed a reputation as the team’s hardest worker.

How exactly that translates to the court is mostly unknown, even to those within the program. Though he’s technically not one of the Tigers’ seven new players on the roster, Azab is likely the most inexperienced. He only began playing organized basketball four years ago, right as political strife gripped Giza, and admits his senior year of high school is the only time he…