When Coast Carolina dominated South Carolina of the SEC back on Dec. 1, redshirt sophomore Essam Mostafa was at the forefront of the Chanticleers’ upset victory. He posted a 23-point, 13-rebound double-double in the 80-56 trouncing of the Gamecocks, and this was just the beginning for the power forward.
Walking off the court that night, “The Egyptian Lion” emphatically yelled “we like that!” And the Chanticleer fans do in fact like the way the 6-foot-9-inch post has been playing.
Mostafa grew up in the soccer-crazed nation of Egypt, which has little basketball history. Per Real GM, there are currently two Division I basketball players from Egypt (Aly Khalifa of Charlotte is the other), and the nation has only been home to two NBA players.
The Cairo-native played high school basketball at Long Island Lutheran High School in New York. Mostafa elected to play for the Chanticleers after collecting offer sheets from schools such as Arkansas-Little Rock, Niagara, Robert Morris, South Alabama and UC Riverside.
Going from Cairo to New York to Conway, S.C. had to have been quite the culture shock, but for Mostafa, the decision was the right one. Experienced head coach Cliff Ellis recruited Mostafa with a clear plan for his development. According to both 24/7 Sports and Coastal Carolina’s athletic website, Mostafa first landed on Coastal’s campus weighing around 220 pounds.
Two years later, he’s now playing at 250 pounds which has turned him into a brute force in the middle. Mostafa was dominant from the get-go as a redshirt freshman, starting in every game except one and averaging 12.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. If it weren’t for the dominance of Arkansas State’s Norchad Omier, Mostafa likely would have been named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.
Now a sophomore, Mostafa has firmly established himself as one of the biggest bullies in all of mid-major hoops. Currently averaging 15.5 points and 9.9 rebounds, Mostafa is one of the Sun Belt’s best and most feared players.
Mostafa is undeniably a great player, but he and the team still have room to grow. After a terrific showing against their out of conference slate, the Chanticleers have gotten off to a disappointing 1-4 start in Sun Belt play. They throttled UL Monroe 94-64 to kick off conference play but have since lost four games in a row and are near the bottom of the Sun Belt.
In their most recent game - an 84-76 overtime loss to Appalachian State, Mostafa really struggled. He found himself in early foul trouble, and in the second half committed a bad technical foul after he felt like he was on the receiving end of a bad call. Mostafa eventually fouled out towards the end of regulation. He finished with just six points and seven boards. The Mountaineers pulled away in overtime, largely because they were able to control the glass with Mostafa relegated to watching from the sidelines.
The good news for Coastal is that the conference season is still early. The Sun Belt features as much parity as any mid-major conference with Coastal just 2.5 games out of first place. The Chanticleers lost in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Tournament, where they lost in overtime.
There is still plenty of time for this team to regroup and make a similar run or perhaps go even further this March, but it is hard to foresee that happening if Mostafa has any more outings similar to the App. State game. On his best day, Mostafa is the Sun Belt’s best player and can control games by himself. If he’s able to bring this mentality onto the court down the stretch of the season, it’s far too soon to count out the Chanticleers as Sun Belt contenders.