MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The University of Memphis is remembering basketball player Karim Samay Hazab, who lost his battle with leukemia at age 22, just eight months after his diagnosis.
From Giza, Egypt to pursuing his dreams in Memphis, Karim Azab’s eagerness to play the game he loved was written all over his face.
“All he wanted to do was play basketball before he got hit with this deadly disease,” team coach Penny Hardaway said.
But last weekend, the team got the saddening news — Azab’s cancer condition was worsening, and he didn’t have much time left.
“I had to break the news to the guys and they really didn’t take it well but they knew he was still fighting,” Hardaway said.
Penny Hardaway and the Tigers struggle with the loss of teammate Karim Sameh Azab, who passed away yesterday after an 8 month battle with leukemia. pic.twitter.com/3C9jCW9taj
— Mike Ceide (@MCeide_WREG3) November 16, 2018
They say Azab lost his battle Thursday, fighting as hard as he could.
“It’s heartbreaking news to hear,” teammate Jeremiah Martin said.
People who knew him say it was his spirit that kept him alive. It was a spirit that was so contagious.
“Great personality,” Hardaway said. “Everybody loved him. No one had a negative word about him.”
With courage, on April 21, Azab posted on social media that he had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblasic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia.
That’s a disease that doctors say only has about a 27 percent survival rate.
“Acute lycemias are probably the most aggressive cancers known to mankind,” said Muhammad Raza, a hematologist and oncologist at Baptist Cancer Center.
But without a doubt, he had faith.
“I was just looking at our messages and pictures and stuff,” teammate Mike Park said. “I can’t believe this really happened. It just doesn’t seem real.”
Park was Azab’s good friend. He says he was a jokester, and even through his pain and the hard times dealing with the distance from his family, he kept his smile.
“Aw man he was always smiling,” Park said.
And they say that smile and eagerness to play will never be forgotten on this team.
Coach Hardaway says the team will wear pins and ribbons at Saturday’s game to honor Azab.