Omar El-Sheikh’s star rises in the Dominican Republic

The Arkansas State Red Wolves took two of three games in an exhibition of basketball

Watching a Spanish-speaking production of an exhibition basketball game on YouTube in August is not something I commonly do, but it’s also rare to see Arkansas State in the Dominican Republic, where Coach Mike Balado ferried his new-look team for a consequence-free round of pick-up games. The nine-day 2022 Summer Foreign Tour to the Dominican Republic had the Red Wolves pitted against the Dominican Republic Senior National Team, the Dominican Republic Select Team, and the Dominican Republic U-22 Team.

The wins and losses don’t really matter (spoiler, the Red Wolves dropped Game 1 to the Senior National Team). What matters is that Coach Balado has a big pile of guys who haven’t played with each other much, and the Dominicans proved to be a fine crucible to forge these individuals into a team.

Emerging from the white-hot magma was Omar El-Sheikh, the 6’8″ Egyptian forward who led the team in points (16.7 ppg) and rebounds (9 rpg). Oh yeah, he also shot a whopping 70.8% from the field. While nobody is likely to replace Norchad Omier’s production this season, El-Sheikh certainly brought Omier’s dominating inside presence to the Dominican Republic, who played some pretty decent basketball during the exhibition.

Also looking sharp: Malcom Farrington, the long-distance sharp shooter was 14 of 26 from beyond the arc (53.8%). Outside shooting would prove to be a big help to El-Sheikh and 7’1″ newcomer Alaaeddine Boutayeb, who averaged 7 boards per game. My initial impression of Boutayeb is that he moves fluidly for such a big guy. It will be interesting to see how he evolves.

Caleb Fields was busy – he played more minutes than anyone and seems to the man tagged to floor-lead the program. Additional, Markise Davis was a sizzling 60% from the floor and provide some acrobatics.

What can we take from this? I honestly cannot say, except that putting these guys on the floor with a trio of experienced teams seems like a valuable exercise. It also tells us that El-Sheikh may be a force to be reckoned with. We didn’t see to much from Mak Manciel or Terrence Ford, but Julian Lual, the 6’6″ Canadian, showed us he is not without skill (12-22 shooting with three steals). What we have is a Team of Intrigue, one that has my hopes simmering come November.