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Nets camp invite Patrick Gardner part of World Cup opening Friday

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Patrick Gardner, who agreed to a Nets training camp deal last month, will be on the court in Manila Friday at the FIBA World Cup, a member of the Egyptian national team. His debut vs. Lithuania comes 24 hours before Team USA’s first game vs. New Zealand.

Gardner, a native Long Islander whose mother is from Egypt, was listed at 6’11” last season by Marist, but he is officially listed by Egypt at 2.16 meters — 7’1”. He is also listed as power forward/center by the Pharaohs.

The Egyptians take on Lithuania, the perennial European powerhouse, on Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET then Montenegro on Sunday and and Mexico on Tuesday, both games having a 4:40 a.m. ET start time. (ESPN is carrying all 92 games on on ESPN2 or ESPN+ in the United States. FIBA’s official streaming service, Courtside 1891, and Sling TV also offer a streaming option.)

For Gardner, the World Cup is the latest step in a unique journey from high school on Long Island to Nassau Community College, then NCAA Division II at St. Michael’s in Vermont before ending up at Division I Marist where he averaged 19.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game with shooting splits of 56/38/84. After going undrafted in June, the 24-year-old played with the Heat in Summer League, then agreed to come back to New York with the Nets. Gardner is likely to wind up with the Long Island Nets after Brooklyn’s training camp. Nassau Coliseum, where the Nets G League club plays, is five miles from his home in Merrick.

In speaking with Arab News before he and Egypt departed Abu Dhabi, Gardner said playing for the Egyptian national team has been a dream for a long time.

“It’s been a dream come true to play for this team,” he told Reem Abulleil. “But I never thought it was possible until this year. So I’m just so excited to be part of this and I’m ready to compete with this amazing team.

He also explained his Egyptian connection.

“My mom is Egyptian. She was born in Cairo. My dad is American and he is Irish and Italian. My mom really loves her country. which kind of spread to us and that made us appreciate where she’s from and we try to embrace it as much as we can. She always took us to Egypt in high school to spend the summers there. So I really loved my time there and it’s a little different from New York but it’s a great place.”

Although he had expressed interest in playing for the Egyptian national team, he only received his Egyptian passport 10 days ago, which the country’s basketball federation promoted in an Instagram post with the line, “No more wait. Patrick Gardner is an Egyptian.”...

Gardner posted his gratitude. “I am very excited and happy to represent Egypt’s national team.”

Since then, Egypt has lost two exhibition games in Abu Dhabi against Mexico and Lebanon. Little is known about how Gardner performed in the two games and about any contact he has had with Mikal Bridges or Cam Johnson or the Nets front office. Both Sean Marks and Joe Tsai were in Abu Dhabi. Team USA and Egypt even trained at the same gym on the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

Arab News reported Thursday that both Johnson and Bridges wanted to “check out” Gardner while in Abu Dhabi but there’s been no social media on either the Brooklyn Nets or Egyptian Basketball Federation sites suggesting that happened. Gardner did sit courtside for the Team USA-Greece game Friday. (One reason for the lack of info on the Nets sites may be because Gardner officially signed yet.)

Egypt is in a particularly tough group in Manila along with Lithuania as well as Mexico and Montenegro. USA head coach Steve Kerr, who spent a lot of time in Egypt growing up, thinks Egypt is ready to take as big step.

“During my college years, I engaged in basketball matches among various colleges in Cairo ,” Kerr told Esquire Middle East last week. “I represented Cairo American College and played against Ahli and Zamalek (two Egyptian sports clubs.) Today, witnessing the improvement of basketball in Egypt is truly remarkable. For instance, Zamalek’s recent victory in the African cup, among other achievements, illustrates their remarkable progress. This is genuinely exciting.”

Ehab Amin, Egypt’s top player who played college ball at Oregon, told Esquire that the team’s goal is as much about next year’s Olympics in Paris as it is about the World Cup in Manila.

“The World Cup matches are challenging; however, we have strong confidence in advancing through the group stage,” Amin told Esquire’s Mohammad Akkawi. We also aim to secure our country’s qualification for the Paris Olympics through our World Cup performance.”

For that to happen, Egypt will have to advance beyond the Group stage. If the Pharaohs can do that, the Olympics will be yet another milestone for Gardner.