New Basketball rules change EC League dynamics
September 29, 2013
By Aamena Ahmed
During his sophomore year, Mahjoub Abdelrahman started the men’s basketball team at Northwestern University in Qatar in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. After two years of training hard, the players won the finals last year against other Education City universities and were crowned the EC basketball league champions. Besides taking the trophy, Abdelrahman was also recognized as the “Most Valuable Player” on the team. But despite putting in all that effort and leading the team to finals, Abdelrahman can’t play for it anymore.
“I’ve seen this team grow so much since it first started,” said Abdelrahman, who is now a senior at NU-Q. “I’ve been playing since the start and we’ve worked so hard. It feels really weird knowing I can’t play anymore.”
This sudden change for Abdelrahman came as part of the new rules established under the Hamid Bin Khalifa University Basketball League this semester. The league, which started seven years ago as the Qatar Basketball League and now includes six men’s teams and eight women’s teams, has established new eligibility rules, according to Majid Al-Ali, the sports and recreation coordinator at Hamad Bin Khalifa Univesity and the head of the basketball league in Education City.
The new rules do not allow any student who has a contract with a professional club or Qatar’s national team to join the league. The rules also extend the league to involve other universities in Qatar, including Qatar University.
“Schools like Qatar University have a very high number of students who play professionally so all of a sudden we might be up against a team that has 10 players from the national team, while we (EC teams) only have one,” said Evan Witt, the basketball coach of the NU-Q and CMU-Q team. This rule was established to level the abilities of all the teams in the league and to have an amateur league with no professional players.
But another option discussed among the coaches was whether or not to allow only one club player per team. With the exception of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, most schools in Education City still decided to vote in favor of an amateur league.
“We believe that these (club) players do not affect the competitive balance of the league and should be allowed to play,” said Alex Silberman, the basketball coach at GUSFS-Q, which previously had a club member on the team. But the school will respect the collective decision, he added.
Playing for the Al Rayyan Sports club, Emir Hasanovikj is currently the only club player on GUSFS-Q’s team. As senior this year, Hasanovikj has been on the team since his freshman year and has seen the club grow from “three people showing up for practice to a force to be reckoned with in this league.” Georgetown’s basketball team currently has 15 members.
“I am perfectly happy managing both teams. I have enough time for Rayyan, GU basketball, my schoolwork as well as my job,” Hasanovikj said. “That’s what it’s all about really: Playing your heart out day in and day out!”
But Coach Witt disagreed.
“It’s not fair to expect students to be able to attend college practice, club practice and still have time for school. It’s too much,” he said. “(For the league) we’re talking about two games a week, plus one practice a week. That’s a big commitment itself.”
Another professional player on GUSFS-Q’s basketball team dropped out because the time commitment for both teams was too hard to handle, according to Hasanovikj.
“We all respect and support him in that,” Hasanovikj said.
Witt also said that if one club member was allowed to play for each team then “it’s one of those things that kind of snowballs. So if it’s one then why not two, or if it’s two why not three?” he explained.
Besides Abdelrahman and Hasanovikj, there is a student at Texas A&M University in Qatar who also plays for a professional basketball club. He too, will have to give up the league if he wants to continue playing for his club, Al-Ali said.
While the matches continue this Sunday, September 29, with NU-Q’S and CMU-Q’s first game of the season against Stenden University, it won’t be the same this year. “The Most Valuable Player” won’t be on the court. He can only watch from a distance.
“I didn’t want to give up. I seriously wanted it all,” Abdelrahman said. “But I think it’s time to move on.”
But he’s thankful for being able to play for a professional basketball team and remains optimistic about the situation.