U of M basketball player dies 9 months after leukemia diagnosis

U of M basketball player dies 9 months after leukemia diagnosis
(Source: University of Memphis)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Karim Sameh Azab, a University of Memphis basketball player, has died after losing his battle with leukemia.

His death comes nine months after being diagnosed with the disease.

What began as discomfort in his shoulder as the Tigers were preparing to play in the American Athletic Conference Championship in Orlando last March led to a diagnosis of leukemia lymphoma.

Azab announced the diagnosis April 21 on social media.

"The University of Memphis is deeply saddened by the passing of Karim Azab," said UofM President M. David Rudd. "It is never easy when someone so young has their life cut short. Karim showed great courage battling with tremendous fight and determination. He was proud of being a Tiger, and Karim will be missed immensely. Our thoughts are with his family, as well as his friends, teammates and fellow UofM students, faculty and staff. The spirit of Karim will never be forgotten at the University of Memphis."

Since being diagnosed, Azab had been undergoing treatment and his courageous fight had garnered recognition.

At the Tennessee Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-Off Reception in Nashville earlier this summer, Azab was given the annual 'Coach Dave Loos MVP Award' named for former Austin Peay coach and former Memphis player and assistant coach Dave Loos. New Memphis coach Penny Hardaway accepted the award during the Sept. 20 ceremony.

The Loos Award "celebrates those who exude strength, perseverance and determination in the fight against cancer." Loos displayed those characteristics during his personal fight against the disease and through his years of support of Coaches vs. Cancer.

A native of Giza, Egypt, Azab spent the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons with the Tigers' basketball program. He had to sit out the 2016-17 season awaiting clearance from the NCAA and made his debut last season.

Azab, who turned 22 last month, played in 15 games last season as a reserve and finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. He was looking forward to returning, but when the season ended, he received the leukemia diagnosis.

"It is with great sadness and personal heartache that we mourn the passing of Karim Azab,' said Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen. "Karim was a wonderful young man who was excited to be a part of the University of Memphis and Tiger basketball. My prayers and thoughts go out to Karim's parents and family."

Before coming to Memphis, Azab, 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, had displayed his skills during international competition. He was a member of the FIBA Africa Under-18 gold-medal winning Egyptian National Team in 2014. He scored 18 points and had a team-best 11 rebounds for U-18 Egypt against Tunisia in the final game of group play in Madagascar.

He came to the United States to attend Pace Academy in Carrboro, N.C., and play for Bull City Prep outside Chapel Hill, N.C., during the 2014-15 season. He transferred to Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago for his senior season and averaged 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.

While sitting out his first season at Memphis, he impressed teammates with his work ethic and training methods. He lost 20 pounds through a combination of hard work and a proper diet.

After his initial leukemia diagnosis, Azab posted the news on his Twitter account and told followers, in part, "I have started treatment and am working through the process, but I wanted to spread the word and ask for your prayers to help strengthen me in this journey."

Azab had been an inspiration to his teammates, coaches and others during the battle.

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