MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A University of Memphis student athlete is gone too soon after losing his brief battle with cancer.
Those who knew Memphis Tiger forward Karim Azab are remembering their fellow player and friend.
Media availability Friday was much different for Coach Penny Hardaway, who spoke for the first time since Azab passed away Thursday after a 7-month battle with leukemia.
“It puts things in perspective because when this happens it’s bigger than basketball,” Hardaway said.
Azab, who came to Memphis from Egypt to play basketball for the Tigers, was on leave from the team to battle the disease.
Hardaway says Azab never gave up on his dream to get back on the court.
“The last couple weeks, he asked me about having the equipment manager bring him more gear,” Hardaway said. “He’s fighting for his life and he just wanted to have the Tiger gear and represent us, and that says a lot about him.”
“It’s very tough, words can’t even describe it,” said teammate Mike Parks, who was good friends with Azab.
Azab’s teammates took the news very hard.
“It took a toll on us,” Parks said. “I was really hurt by that. I was just looking at our messages and pictures and stuff like I can't believe this is really happening like it doesn't seem real.”
“I was looking at his jersey before we went in to LSU because I was one of the last people to leave,” said teammate Jeremiah Martin. “And I just touched it trying to make, just to remember him because I know how bad he really wanted to be here. I know how bad he really wanted to play for Coach Hardaway.”
The Tigers plan to put a permanent ribbon on their jerseys this season in honor of Azab.
“The guys, they’re going to play for him,” Hardaway said. “They’re going to play because they know that’s what he wanted to do. All he wanted to do was play basketball.”
“We’re just going to try to make him proud,” Martin said. “I know he’s going to be smiling down on us.”
The Tigers coaches will also be wearing ribbons at Saturday night’s game against Yale.
That game tips off at 7 p.m. at FedExForum.