Loyola's Seif Hendawy to take defensive lessons from NBA vet Abdel Nader to BAL

Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs. Bradley Braves: Game Highlights (1:49)

Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs. Bradley Braves: Game Highlights (1:49)

Al Ahly and NBA Africa Academy power forward Seif Hendawy has credited former Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns small forward Abdel Nader for helping him improve his defense, ahead of his move to Loyola Chicago Ramblers.

Hendawy is in his second season participating in the NBA Africa Academy's Basketball Africa League's Elevate program, which annually allocates 12 top talents from the academy in Saly, Senegal, to BAL teams.

Hendawy played for Angola's Petro de Luanda last year, but this year, he was allocated to boyhood club Al Ahly in Cairo, the city hosting the BAL's Nile Conference from April 19 to 27.

Far from the young boy who first joined Ahly, Hendawy is now an Egypt international, having made his debut in the recent AfroBasket qualifiers. He will soon have the opportunity to line up alongside Abdel Nader, who only recently received clearance to represent Egypt himself but has already been advising Hendawy.

Hendawy told ESPN of his senior national team debut: "It was everything I expected it to be. [The important takeaway is] more of an experience that I got from the national team - from the coaching staff and also the players. They are older than me by three, five, seven years [or] even 18 [in the case of Haytham Khalifa].

"They have been in my shoes before. I also got to meet Abdel Nader, the guy that played in the NBA. The experience that I got from Abdel Nader is how to play defense and how the defense looks like in the highest level in the NBA."

Hendawy is looking to make it from Loyola to the NBA at the earliest opportunity and become the first Egypt-raised player to go all the way to the league. Alaa Abdelnaby and Nader are the two Egyptians to have played in it so far, but neither was as entrenched in the local basketball system as Hendawy is, who is following in his father's footsteps by playing for Al Ahly.

"Absolutely," Hendawy said when asked if playing for Ahly would feel different to playing for Petro.

"This is my home team. Since I was younger, I always wondered: 'When is that time I will be playing with the senior team?' That time is here. I'm representing the team that I've been playing in since I was young. To represent them in front of Africa is a big thing, honestly."

Although he enjoyed his experience with Petro and was impressed by the level of structural organization in Angolan basketball, Hendawy will always feel most comfortable playing for his hometown club under a coach, Agustí Julbe, who has won two BAL titles in two attempts with Ahly and Cairo rivals Zamalek.

He respects Julbe's clarity of vision for what he wants to do with his teams and noticed similar qualities in Loyola's staff, headed by coach Drew Valentine, when they scouted him. As a result, Hendawy picked Loyola despite telling ESPN he had other offers.

"They first spoke to me after I finished my games in Orlando [at the G League Winter Showcase] and since then, they just reached out to me and we had a good relationship," Hendawy said.

"They had a really, really good presentation when we had the first Zoom meeting. I had my father in it and a couple of coaches in the NBA Academy. They know how to use me and how to get me better and they showed me where I fit in my team.

"Honestly, I felt comfortable and the thing about this school is that all of them are honest and this is what I liked."

First, Hendawy will try to help Ahly retain their BAL title and win a first of his own. Before the Kalahari Conference tipped off in Pretoria in March, he tipped his old side, Petro, to be one of Ahly's strongest rivals, along with Tunisia's US Monastir.

"I think it would be Monastir and Petro from what I think, but I don't really know how the teams look like. I was hearing there's a lot of players moving," he said when asked who he expects to be Ahly's biggest threats.

Ahly will host the Nile Conference in Cairo (April 19-27) after Petro and FUS Rabat sealed automatic playoff spots last month in Pretoria. Monastir will play in Dakar's Sahara Conference (May 4-12). Subsequently, the seeding games and playoffs will take place in Kigali (May 24 - June 1).