When University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino announced the signing of Anas Mahmoud, a 7-footer from Cairo, Egypt, the overwhelming expectation was that the rookie would spend his initial year with the Cardinals as a redshirt season.
That assumption wasn't made due to his need to further develop his abilities. He's very athletic for a tall body, runs the floor well and has an impressive jump shot. The concern was his slender frame.
“Anas is an extremely versatile seven-footer,” said Pitino. “He is a very skilled athlete who is a very good scorer and passer. His only weakness is strength. We will base a consideration of redshirting him on how quickly he can gain necessary strength to be effective.”
Arriving in Louisville nearly four months ago, Mahmoud immediately went to work in the weight room and at the dinner table, adding 20 pounds during his first three months on campus. The efforts appeared to be fruitful during the team's two Red-White scrimmages.
Starting for the White team, Mahmoud averaged 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the two games. He also totaled 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals, with only 2 turnovers in 50 minutes of play.
“We're still working on it,” he said. “I'm getting better and I'm getting stronger.”
Mahmoud, who played a year at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Fla., prior to inking with the Cardinals, played just one minute in the exhibition against Barry University, but will receive the start against Bellarmine on Sunday.
He credits much of his continuing improvement to All-American junior Montrezl Harrell. Also, as he did in the two scrimmages, Mahmoud receives minutes at both the power forward and center spots during practice.
“I'm playing both,” he explained. “Coach is letting me play both, but I prefer playing power forward more and coach knows that. He let's me play against Trez all the time. Trez always pushes me to play stronger, play defense,” he said. “He's always pushing me to my potential. He's a great guy.”
It's better for me to play against Trez every day in practice.”
Pitino described his decision to start the freshman in the final exhibition game as an opportunity to get a last look at some guys. Mahmoud knows the decision to play him this season, and how much, rests upon his ability to be more physical in the paint.
“Being tougher and stronger, so I can use my body,” he said. “I know my body isn't strong enough, but I have to use it a lot, especially if I'm playing the four or five. Working on getting tougher.”
Check out the video below for more from the freshman.