North Texas Daily

Forward balances out faith and the game

Forward balances out faith and the game

Forward balances out faith and the game
December 03
23:08 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

It’s mid-July and junior forward Muhammed Ahmed is practicing with the rest of the basketball team, trying to prepare for the upcoming season. Running, drills, weights, shooting baskets for hours at a time. Finally, it is time for a water break and the team hustles to the coolers. The only person not quenching his thirst is Ahmed, who is fasting for Ramadan.

Ahmed, a practicing Muslim from New York, is in his first season with the Mean Green and trying to balance his faith and still play the game he has loved since he was a child. This past summer was a challenge for Ahmed as Ramadan fell in the summer months. Ramadan is the holiest month in the religion of Islam and all Muslims are required to abstain from food and liquids from dawn to dusk. It also fell into the time when Ahmed was getting prepared for the 2014-15 season.

“It was tough because I had to lift in the morning,” Ahmed said. “We had workouts during the day.”

Ahmed’s schedule during that time period started at 7 a.m. for conditioning and throughout the day the coaching staff had basketball drills for the team to participate in. The team also had weight-lifting every other day and still Ahmed could not eat or drink at all during the day. Ahmed would have to wake up before sunrise to get something eat before his day started.

“The thing about it is that I didn’t have anyone near me to cook for me, so I really didn’t eat well,” Ahmed said. “It had to be snacks or a little frozen food and the cafeteria would be closed by that time.”

Ahmed also drank a lot of liquids when he could because he was in store for a lot of running once the day began. This kind of devotion didn’t always exist for Ahmed.

“My grandmother would always tell me, ‘You got to pray, you have to pray,’” Ahmed said. “I would always say, ‘Oh I will do it when I am older.’ But when I was 15 that is when I got serious about it.”

Ahmed said one of the reasons he became more devout was he finally learned about the religion, which opened his eyes. It shows in his personal life, as Ahmed doesn’t go out or go to parties. He spends his free time studying, praying when he can and in the gym playing basketball.

“When we do the team prayers, I do my own my prayers,” Ahmed said. “Some of my teammates even want to come with me when I go to the mosque.”

Ahmed has gotten respect from his teammates and his coaches for both his beliefs and his ability to contribute to the team in a positive manner.

“It shows a commitment level, but it’s really tough because as a team, we are doing our daily regiment level,” head coach Tony Benford said. “It is really difficult when you’re going through that as a kid. Just a great deal of respect for him and the toughness that he demonstrates while he is going through that.”

Benford said it is hard to go through workouts, go to class and still not being able to eat or drink during the day. He also said he thought Ahmed lost around 20 pounds while he was fasting, something he is trying to regain right now.

Benford said Ahmed’s actions are something the rest of the team can rally around and get some inspiration from. Ahmed had a game when he had 12 points and seven rebounds against the No. 25 University of Arkansas on Nov. 28 and had 15 points and nine rebounds against Mississippi Valley State University on Nov. 26.

“[Ahmed’s teammates] see that he is committed to his faith and that is very important to him,” Benford said. “When you see that commitment level, you got to respect that as a teammate. He is out there, not complaining, doing the same drills as they are doing. “

Benford said he thought the trainers and the strength coach did a good job at monitoring Ahmed’s progress to make sure there were no health concerns while he was fasting. His teammates, such as senior guard Jordan Williams, were skeptical of Ahmed’s ability to fast while doing workouts.

“Man, when they first told me, I was like, ‘I don’t think he can make it,’” Williams said. “I’ve been through D-I stuff all three years and I barely made it, and for him not drink water or eat anything, I just didn’t think he would make it.”

Williams said that commitment to basketball and faith showed him that Ahmed is a reliable teammate.

“That also shows that he would be very dedicated to his teammates and be a very good guy,” Williams said.

What Ahmed does is not uncommon, as Hall-of-Fame basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon was a devout Muslim during his playing days. He often fasted during the season and posted some of his best numbers during the month of Ramadan. That serves as an inspiration for Ahmed, who wants to continue to balance his faith and his love for basketball.

“Anything is possible with Allah,” Ahmed said.

Featured Image: Junior forward Muhammed Ahmed drives past a Nicholls State University defender on Nov. 17. Photo by Harris Buchanan – Staff Photographer

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