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 firstname.lastname@example.org