SAN JOSE, Calif. — Ehab Amin grew up playing soccer in Egypt, but at age 13 he veered toward basketball.
Four years later, Amin was on his way to the United States in search of a place to play college basketball. Amin spent a year living in the dorms while attending prep school in Wisconsin to get his transcripts in order and prepare to take the SAT exam.
“I was used to traveling by myself all the time because I had been on the national team since playing on the under-14 team,” Amin said.
Amin signed to play at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and led the nation with 3.4 steals per game as a junior before suffering a hip injury that forced him to sit out and redshirt last year.
“I was thinking ‘Why is this happening?’” Amin recalled. “I was playing my best basketball and ready for a good senior year and then I got hurt. It turned out to be a blessing because now I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Amin graduated with a degree in business and looked around for a bigger program to play his senior season. He ended up at Oregon for what he has described as a “roller-coaster” season that has culminated in the NCAA Tournament, where the 12th-seeded Ducks (24-12) will face No. 13 UC Irvine (31-5) in the South Region second round at 6:40 p.m. Sunday at SAP Center in San Jose.
His family and friends will be up at 3:40 a.m. back home to watch and his high school often held watch parties for Amin’s games this year.
“I’d say basketball is the second-most popular sport in Egypt after soccer, but the gap is huge between soccer and any other sport,” Amin said. “Soccer dominates. Everybody plays everywhere, in the streets and on the beach or at school.”
Amin spent 11 years playing club basketball and won the Egyptian League championship during his senior year of high school. He was named most valuable player of the under-16 African championship in 2011 and earned the same honor the following year in the under-18 tournament.
“I had my eye set on playing Division I basketball a long time ago,” he said.
Amin began this season as a starter for the Ducks before moving to the bench after seven games. His playing time dipped to five minutes in a loss to USC on Feb. 21 and, two days later, he never got into Oregon’s loss at UCLA.
When Oregon returned home to face Arizona State, Amin had 11 points, five rebounds, and three steals in a 79-51 victory that started its current nine-game winning streak. His brother arrived in town two days later for Amin’s final game at Matthew Knight Arena when he scored six points in a 73-47 win over Arizona.
“That senior weekend hit me hard,” Amin said. “I knew that I had no more chances and had to leave it all out there.”
Amin has played an average of 14 minutes in Oregon’s last nine wins while averaging 6.4 points and 3.0 rebounds to go with a total of 12 steals. Amin scored 13 points in a 79-75 overtime win over Arizona State in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, including a game-tying 3-pointer in the final two minutes.
“Ehab has gotten us some big rebounds and brings energy on the defensive end,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I think he worked into that role and has done a good job.”
Amin ranks ninth in the conference with 51 steals, an average of one just about every six minutes he plays, while often playing alongside Payton Pritchard, whose 65 steals are second in the Pac-12.
“I love playing with Ehab because I know he will get steals or else I will off his defense and his aggressiveness,” Pritchard said. “He’s going to make some mistakes sometimes going after steals, but that is his game and he’s going to get steals while he is doing it. I know he is leaving it all out there.”