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Memphis basketball player Karim Sameh Azab dies after battle with leukemia

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 11/16/2018 Drew Hill and Mark Giannotto

a man standing on a sidewalk © Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC Memphis basketball player Karim Sameh Azab died Thursday after an eight-month battle with leukemia, a university spokesman confirmed.  

Azab, 22, announced in April that he had been diagnosed with leukemia after the 2017-18 regular season. 

Former Memphis coach Tubby Smith told The Commercial Appeal in April that Azab began complaining of discomfort in his shoulder leading into the Tigers' appearance in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Smith was then informed of Azab's illness, after he had been fired by Memphis.

According to Greg Jones, Azab's legal guardian when he came to the United States ahead of his junior year of high school, Azab felt a lump underneath his armpit ahead of the AAC tournament, and that it was why he did not appear in any games there.

Jones said doctors officially diagnosed Azab with Stage IV cancer during Final Four weekend last April and told him he would survive only six months if he did not begin treatment immediately.

Azab, who is from Giza, Egypt, had his parents in Memphis with him as he received medical care in recent months. 

“The one thing I will remember most about Karim is his smile, his personality and just how he just embraced life," Jones said Thursday night. "He was a person that never took anything for granted. He always gave 100 percent ... toward everything he did. He didn’t have much, but he would give you the shirt off his back if he had to."

Jones said he hopes Azab's story will inspire others facing similar circumstances. 

"I hope he will be remembered for just being a gentle giant," Jones said. 

After the initial diagnosis, the University of Memphis set up a donation page in order for supporters to make contributions to assist Azab's family with medical and other expenses, as permitted by NCAA rules. More than $12,000 was raised on Azab's behalf.

Azab received the Coach Dave Loos MVP Award at September's Tennessee Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-Off Reception in Nashville in recognition of his cancer fight.

"The University of Memphis is deeply saddened by the passing of Karim Azab," university President M. David Rudd said in a news release. "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." 

As a sophomore last year, the 6-10 forward appeared in 15 games and averaged one point per game.

But Smith consistently praised him for losing nearly 40 pounds after arriving on campus and noted that Azab likely would have been the Tigers' starting center to begin last year's campaign, had he not suffered a knee injury during the preseason.

 

 

"He worked so hard to get to where he was," former Memphis assistant coach Joe Esposito said Thursday night. "Karim just had a good spirit about himself. He was always smiling, just a great kid. He was so fun to recruit because he would always answer and be happy, and he was so proud to be at Memphis.”

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis basketball player Karim Sameh Azab dies after battle with leukemia

Related slideshow: 10 NCAA basketball players to watch this season (Provided by Larry Brown Sports) 


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