Over the years, a handful of players with Middle Eastern roots have made their mark in the NBA.
The most successful player up to this point has been Beirut, Lebanon native Rony Seikaly, who competed for five NBA clubs from 1988 through the 1990s (he retired in 2000). Seikaly, the Miami Heat’s No. 1 pick in 1988, was an all-American at Syracuse and averaged nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds during his NBA career.
Turkish-born Hedo Turkoglu, a small forward with the Orlando Magic, will be going into his 13th NBA season this fall if an agreement is reached to end the lockout. Turkoglu is in his second go-around with the Magic, for whom he played from 2004-2009.
Chicago Bulls fans are well-acquainted with center Omer Asik, also born in Turkey. Asik helped the Bulls reach the Eastern Conference finals in June.
It’ll be awhile before we learn whether twin brothers Hamza and Mustafa Chaudhry end up playing NBA basketball. But they’re both shooting to achieve that goal.
“We want to play in the NBA,” said Hamza after getting an autograph from Bulls color commentator Stacey King at the Bulls-Sox Training Academy in Lisle. “Our biggest goal is (to go to) college and get to the NBA.”
The twins, who’ll be 13, were born in Chicago, but have lived in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with their Pakistani-born father, Salman Chaudhry, since they were 2. However, Chaudhry still maintains a home in Skokie, where he and the boys have been spending most of the summer.
“We’re here for the entire summer for a long, extended vacation,” said Chaudhry, who works in customer electronics and satellite communications for Star Micro Technologies.
In between trips to Houston, New York City and Colorado this summer, Hamza and Mustafa have been honing their basketball skills. They’ve already participated in two week-long camps run by the Bulls-Sox Training Academy. Their first Bulls-Sox camp session was held in Elgin during late June, and their second took place at the Academy’s Lisle headquarters earlier this month.
At the Lisle facility, they met a number of former Bulls stars who spoke at the end of each daily camp session. Among them: forwards Sydney Green and Bob Love, the Bulls’ No. 2 all-time leading scorer; King and guard Randy Brown, both of whom played on Bulls championship teams during the 1990s; and guard/forward Kendall Gill.
Hamza said that since there are no basketball camps of this caliber in Dubai, he and his brother wanted to make sure they could attend a high-quality camp during their stay in the United States. So they conducted some online research and came across the Bulls-Sox Academy camps.
“We basically wanted to come to the Bulls camp because we’re huge fans of basketball,” Hamza said. “Living in Dubai, we can’t meet the (professional) players or get to do any of the professional camps so we researched some camps and found this Bulls-Sox Academy.
“The Bulls are one of our favorite teams. We like it and we’ve done two camps now.”
“We’re huge fans of the Bulls so it was just easy to attend the Bulls(-Sox) Academy,” Mustafa added. “It’s fun. This is probably one of the best camps I’ve been to. I really like this camp because you get to meet a guest speaker every single day.”
They’re certainly fast learners. Hamza's and Mustafa’s performances in the shooting portion of the camps’ skills competition exceeded those players in their age group by a noticeably wide margin.
The average shooting score in the skills competition for players in their 12-year-old age group is around 13 points. Hamza and Mustafa both scored over 30 points each.
Last year, Hamza and Mustafa played for the U14 team at the American School of Dubai—an independent, nonprofit school with an American curriculum that serves North American families and other students who are temporarily or permanently residing in Dubai.
That team was undefeated (12-0). This year, they will be trying out for ASD’s junior varsity team.
“Me and Mustafa play basketball every single day,” Hamza said. “We have a court in our back yard and at school we play.”
Although Hamza considers himself to be a point guard, and Mustafa a small forward, the twins played multiple positions for the U14 team.
“I’m a bit big for a point guard,” Hamza said, “but when we were playing on the U14 team, the coach had us (in) as an all-arounder. But I like playing point guard and small forward.
Asked to sum up his strengths as a player, Hamza said, “I’m probably a really good ballhandler. And passing, shooting and post maneuvers.”
Mustafa says ballhandling and shooting are his best on-court attributes.
“Since I’m a small forward, I guess I need all the skills all around so basically everything it takes to be the best,” he said.
Last week, Mustafa and Hamza put their hoops dreams on hold for a few days as they accompanied their father to Colorado to do some camping, fishing and, in Chaudhry’s words, “Living out in the wild.”
“The basketball agenda for this summer is pretty much over,” he said with a laugh.