Knox’s Omar El-Sheikh is living his dream.
The senior from Egypt is playing his second season for the Knox Prep boys basketball team, a school based out of St. James on Long Island. He played for his national team but always had larger goals. He wants to play Division I college basketball. He wants to play in the NBA. But first, he wanted to play in the United States.
“I always looked to play in America,” El-Sheikh said after Knox Prep’s 74-66 loss to Bronx Our Saviour Lutheran at the Empire Invitational at Adelphi Saturday. “This is just a dream for every person to play at the highest levels so I trained as hard as I could.”
El-Sheikh had 13 points and made his presence known on the boards. At 6-7, he’s receiving interest from schools in the Atlantic 10 and American Athletic Conference because of his versatility. His ability to play on the wing comes from his international experience and he is trying to learn traditional big man skills in the American game.
“I was playing the international way, not tough enough, not strong enough,” El-Sheikh said. “Physicality wise, I’ve improved a lot and I’ve developed my game.”
The Knox Prep team (8-4) attracts players from all over the country and the world, including Lithuania and Tunisia but also Long Island talent. The team travels to a lot of its games as it’s the only prep school on Long Island, but local tournaments such as the Empire Invitational gives Knox Prep a chance to see what it’s like against the top local talent.
“It was a great experience for us,” said coach Walter Townes. “I think our guys are learning what it takes to compete at a level that they hope to be at. It’s great to play teams like this.”
Wassef Methnani (Tunisia) was awarded Knox Prep’s game MVP after leading the Falcons with 24 points. Tyler Hammond (Longwood) added 14 points.
Queens Our Saviour Lutheran’s Jared Rhoden, a key member of Baldwin’s run to the Class AA state semifinals last season, took over the game early, scored 22 points and was named gave MVP. Rhoden reclassified himself at his new school as a junior to preserve himself an extra year of high school eligibility as a member of the Class of 2018. He said he felt very comfortable playing for QOSL coach Peter Wehye.
“I wanted to try something different,” Rhoden said. “I wanted to reclassify to 2018, up my recruiting and see how far my potential can really take me. . . I feel like I’ve been getting a lot faster on the court. Jumping higher, different things like that that allows the game to get easier for me.”
And for Knox Prep, it was another learning experience for a team from across the world looking to mesh together.
“You live and learn from it,” Townes said. “Hopefully they’ll grow from it.”