Khalid El-Amin, the former UConn point guard, has spent the past eight years toiling on such teams as Ironi Ramat Gan in Israel and Ukraine's Azovmash Mariupol, far from his hometown of Minneapolis. The 30-year-old speaks just one language, English; he spends long months away from his wife, Jessica, and their five children, and from the seafood place that he owns with his father; and he once found himself within 10 blocks of a terrorist bombing in Istanbul. Not that he's complaining, except about the Doritos. "A couple countries have 'em," he says, "but they're knockoffs. The little things—that's what you miss abroad."
This is an article from the July 13, 2009 issue
El-Amin may not be as familiar in the U.S. these days as he was in 1999, when, as a sophomore, the husky Husky (5'10", 203 pounds) helped Connecticut upset Duke in the NCAA championship game. El-Amin scored 12 points in that final and sank two free throws with 5.2 seconds left to seal the win. But his name carries weight on the other side of the Atlantic. After the 2000 second-round NBA pick flamed out in just 50 games with the Chicago Bulls in '00--01 (6.3 ppg), he landed with the French league's Strasbourg IG. "I had the mind-set that, This will only be for a few months, so I won't even bother trying to learn French," El-Amin says. Instead he found basketball success far from the NBA hardwood. He spent a productive stint in Israel and did two years with Besiktas Cola Turka, where he was twice named Turkish league MVP. In '06 he earned MVP honors in Ukraine while carrying Azovmash Mariupol to that country's championship. Last month he took another Turkish team, T√ºrk Telekom, to the league semifinals.
He still isn't fluent in a foreign tongue, nor has he entirely forgotten the NBA. "I'm at peace," says El-Amin, who's been earning close to $1 million a year abroad, "and I tell people I wouldn't trade [this experience] for the world. But I guess I would trade it for a multimillion-dollar NBA contract. There's that part of me that just wants to come home."