Khalid El-Amin: Alive and Kicking

    
November 10th, 2006

The name Khalid El-Amin is sure to bring a smile to a UConn fan’s face and nausea to a Dookies’ stomach. As the point guard for the Huskies, El-Amin helped lead Connecticut to the 1999 NCAA Championship, beating the Blue Devils in the finals and earning El-Amin Final Four All-Tournament status. A second round pick of Chicago in 2000, Khalid enjoyed a fairly successful rookie season – he even was chosen to play in the All-Rookie game at that year’s All-Star festivities. Surprisingly El-Amin hasn’t stepped onto an NBA court since.

His battle to make it back to the League has gone overseas, where El-Amin has continued his winning ways and has become one of the best players in Europe.  Check out this resume - back-to-back Turkish League Player of the Year (04 & 05) and last year in the Ukraine - 2006 Ukrainian Championship, 2006 Championship series MVP and 2006 regular season MVP.  This season Khalid’s Azovmash Mariupol squad is in third place in the Ukrainian Superleague with a 5-1 record.  El-Amin poured in 22 points in their last win.

 

CHN got the chance to catch up with El-Amin for a little hoops summit:

 

Jeff Fox (CHN) - So did you ever imagine you’d end up in the Ukraine at some point in your life?

Khalid - No, to speak truthfully, but I’m comfortable with my situation right now.

 

CHN - After a couple of successful seasons in Turkey why did you leave?

Khalid - The reason for me leaving was simple. The money in the Ukraine was too much to turn down.

 

CHN - Not to be too nosey, but how much can an import pull in in your league?

Khalid - Let’s just say I’m able to support my family.

 

CHN - Fair enough.

Khalid - I make more than some NBA players.

 

CHN - Free rent and car too?

Khalid - Yes, that’s always a plus if you don’t have to pay rent or a car payment.  That is a good thing about playing overseas.

 

CHN - Tell us about the city you live in - what’s it like?

Khalid - Well the city is Mariupol, Ukraine.   The population is 500,000 and it is an industrial city.

 

CHN- Good fan support for the team?

Khalid - Yes, its ok, but Turkey has the most and best fanatics.

 

CHN - So who is your team’s other American import player?

Khalid - Right now I’m the only American but maybe that will change soon.

 

CHN – Players I’ve interviewed in the past talk about the pressure that comes with being a North American import on European teams - you are expected to do it all and not have an off night - do you feel that pressure?

Khalid – Yes, since Americans or imports are paid more the teams expect you to make the difference. That’s normal for me. I myself expect myself to make the difference.  So there is really no pressure.

 

CHN - You’ve carried over your winning ways from college to the pros - 2 Turkish League MVPs and a Ukrainian Championship and MVP - did I miss anything?

Khalid – No, but the NBA is still my dream and god willing soon it can come true.

 

CHN - Why didn’t the NBA work out the first time?  You had a pretty successful rookie year in Chicago - started some games – played in the rookie All-Star game, etc.

Khalid – Yes, in Chicago we had a very young team, and there was no one to tell me to hold on, be strong, it is a long season, your chance will be there. I was young and I was thinking at that stage I was the best point guard and they aren’t being fair. But now I realize it’s a business and you have to wait your turn if you are not a big money player.  I learned a lot from my time in the NBA and if I come back I will be a better player and teammate.  No one ever seems to remember that I was in the rookie All-Star game as a second round pick. This is really big for the #34 pick.

 

CHN - For sure. That is why I’m curious why another team or Chicago didn’t snatch you up after your rookie year - were you given a reason by anyone?

Khalid - No reason just the team is going a different direction.

 

CHN - Well the Bulls did win a whopping 21 games the next year!!

Khalid – I’m a much better player than in 2000 and I’m ready to prove it whoever it may be.

 

CHN - It must give you hope seeing guys like Anthony Parker and Maceo Baston make it back to the League after becoming stars in Europe.

Khalid – Yes, indeed it’s great that these guys get what they deserve in a NBA contract.

 

CHN – You’re still a young guy, and you’ve proven yourself to be a big time player and winner in Europe.  How much interest are you currently getting from NBA teams?

Khalid - To be honest Jeff I don’t know.   I will see after the season.

 

CHN - What’s your current contract situation - a one-year deal?

Khalid – Yes, I’m done after this season.

 

CHN - The past few summers were there many NBA teams sniffing you out?

Khalid - Maybe 1 or 2 but I want to wait until more teams see the value in myself.

 

CHN - Would you have to, or be willing to, take a pay cut or do the free agent tryout thing for a chance at the NBA?

Khalid – Yes, I’m not crazy.  I understand I will have to take a chance on myself in order to get back to the NBA. But I need a good situation for me - not just any situation.

 

CHN - So what are your plans after the season?  Plan on playing for any NBA summer league teams?

Khalid - Yes, I know teams want to see me and I will wait to see what opportunity will present itself.

 

CHN - Time to sell yourself - job interview time! - Why should a NBA team want Khalid El-Amin to play for them?  What do you bring to the table?

Khalid - A winner, a player who understands his role on the team.  A good teammate.  And last but not least a good person who wants the best for himself.

 

CHN - You have been a big time winner at every level - NCAA, pro - what has been your biggest career thrill/highlight so far?

Khalid - Winning the NCAA championship.

 

CHN – You still talk to many guys from that squad?

Khalid – Yes, all the time from Rip, K Free, Rashamel.

 

CHN - I, stupidly, thought Rip Hamilton was going to be too skinny for the NBA!

Khalid - Many people did.

 

CHN - I take it you’re not surprised by how successful he has become?

Khalid - Not really. I knew it was only a matter of time and the right situation.

 

CHN - You keeping track of the current UConn squad?

Khalid - Here and there but when it’s March I tune in.

 

CHN - Who is the toughest guy you’ve been matched up against on each level - NCAA, NBA and Europe?

Khalid – NCAA - Wooten from Washington Huskies; Iverson and Marbury for NBA; Europe no one yet.

 

CHN – No one in Europe is in your league eh!!

Khalid – It’s a different game over here.

 

CHN - What are the major differences?

Khalid – It’s about team in Europe.  If you score 40 and lose it doesn’t matter. In the NBA there is so much room to operate and if you can play one-on-one you can be successful.

 

CHN - Which style do you prefer?

Khalid – I’m ok with both whoever wants me show me the money.

 

CHN - So with it being a more team oriented style, do you still get many guys trying to get a rep by taking it hard at you  - the big NCAA/NBA star?

Khalid - Sometimes but I always come out on top.

 

CHN - Who is going to win the NCAA title this year?

Khalid – I’m going to go with UConn.

 

CHN - Surprise!!

Khalid - ha ha ha.

 

CHN – Saved the most important question for last - What is Ron Artest really like!! (Khalid & Artest were teammates on the Bulls)

Khalid - He is the most humble person ever.

 

CHN - He gets a bad rep then?

Khalid – Yes, he does crazy things.

 

CHN - But he’s not crazy?

Khalid – No, not at all.  But he wants to be great.

 

 

For more info on Khalid, check out his website at www.el-aminbasketball.com

 

CHN is looking for other former NCAA stars to do interview pieces with.  If you are a former player (or a friend/family member of one) please drop us a line at foxyjj@sympatico.ca