Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Lukas Eggen
January 8th, 2014
MONMOUTH — Marwan Sarhan isn’t your typical college basketball player.
Junior forward Marwan Sarhan (center) drives to the hoop against Seattle Pacific. Sarhan is second in scoring and third in rebounds per game for Western Oregon.
The Western Oregon University junior forward didn’t come as a highly touted recruit. In fact, up until this past summer, Western Oregon head coach Brady Bergeson didn’t even know who Sarhan was.
That didn’t deter Sarhan, who, after beginning his basketball career in Egypt, had his sights set on playing for the Wolves. Now, Sarhan is making his mark in a big way.
Sarhan’s basketball journey began in Egypt, where his father and older brother introduced him to the sport.
“I went to the national team camps when I was 14 years old and I was playing with older people, so that was good to gain experience,” Sarhan said.
Sarhan, playing on Egypt’s national team and a club team, grew as a basketball player and played at the FIBA U19 World Championship.
But despite being one of Egypt’s brightest young players, Sarhan had his sights set on a different path.
“When I was young, hearing about college basketball (in the U.S.) and the best players drafted in the NBA, I was just looking for a chance,” Sarhan said.
Sarhan got that chance while at the World Championship.
“That opened chances for me that maybe I can talk with other people who will look into my background,” Sarhan said. “That’s one of the reasons why I started to play internationally, to come and play college basketball.”
Sarhan went to the University of Charleston in 2012 but missed the first 10 games of the season while working out his NCAA eligibility. Then, once he could play, Sarhan saw action in only 10 games during the season.
“Last year, it wasn’t really good for me,” Sarhan said. “I wasn’t eligible at the beginning of the year and I didn’t get minutes to play. I just kept practicing hard and doing everything I was supposed to do.”
Once the season ended, Sarhan began looking for a fresh start at a top Division II conference. The Great Northwest Athletic Conference was at the top of his list. There was just one problem.
It was Sarhan who initiated contact with WOU last summer.
But there was a major roadblock standing in his way.
“We had a little problem in the beginning,” Sarhan said. “(Bergeson) didn’t have a scholarship for me.”
That quickly changed because of an unexpected roster move, Bergeson said. But nearing the end of the signing period and interacting with a player that Bergeson knew almost nothing about made agreeing to take Sarhan in a tough sell.
But the more research he did, the more Bergeson knew Sarhan would fit perfectly in the team’s system and culture.
“Especially when you’re in the summer, you really have to be careful with the type of guy you bring in,” Bergeson said. “We didn’t want to compromise on character. We didn’t want to take a guy who was a character risk. Everything on Marwan checked out on that and we were right, he’s a top notch character guy.
“Number two, I loved the fact that he played on his national team. I loved the fact that he had that international experience.”
The more Sarhan contacted the university, the more he felt he wanted to join the program, despite not having seen the campus. The final question was: Could they get all the necessary paperwork done in time?
“He was flying back to Egypt literally on the day that he signed,” Bergeson said. “He was on the way to the airport, so we were in the 11th hour and up against the last day of the signing period, too.”
Once Sarhan signed to play with the Wolves, he returned to Egypt to visit his family.
With tensions rising in Egypt during the summer, Sarhan said he did his best to avoid the political conflicts going on around him.
“It was a bad situation,” Sarhan said. “We had the curfew and the army out at night, so that was the hardest part.”
But Sarhan did make it back. And since making his debut with Western Oregon, he’s established himself as a big time player for the Wolves, who are off to a 10-4 start to the season.
Making his mark
As soon as practices began, Sarhan worked with coaches to improve his game.
“We worked as a team and through practices. I just tried to see how I could fit in with the team and just try to do everything they needed me to,” Sarhan said.
The results have been positive, quickly earning a spot in the starting lineup.
Sarhan scored 17 points in a win against then-nationally ranked Seattle Pacific and averages 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
“Marwan’s done a really good job from the beginning through maximizing any opportunity he gets,” Bergeson said. “He proved himself over time just by being consistent and coachable.”
After college, Sarhan said he wants to play professionally overseas or in the NBA Developmental League. But for this season, Sarhan said his goals are to do whatever is asked of him.
“The first thing I hope is to win the conference championship,” Sarhan said. “The second is to play in the NCAA (Division II) Tournament.”