MANKATO — The Minnesota State men's basketball team had just lost to Northwest Missouri State in the region semifinals, and coach Matt Margenthaler was feeling pretty lousy about the end of the winningest season in program history.
"Assem was walking down the hall beside me, and he put his big hand on my head," Margenthaler said. "He said, `coach, I'm coming back next year, don't worry.' I felt a lot better after that."
There have been questions about whether or not Marei, the 6-foot-9 center from Egypt, would return to Minnesota State for his senior season, but he cleared that up this week.
"My mom said it's a done deal," Marei said. "She said get your degree, and then you can do what you want."
Following his sophomore season at Minnesota State, Marei returned to Egypt to play for his national team, which was a great experience and he did well. And there was some pressure to stay home and play for one of the professional clubs. But he returned to Minnesota State.
"My goal is not to play in Egypt," he said. "If that's what I wanted, I could have done that when I was 17. I want to become the best player I possibly can, and staying at MSU is the best way I can accomplish that."
This season, Marei averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds, leading the Mavericks in both categories. He had 10 double-doubles, leading the team in scoring 10 times and in rebounding 17 times.
Marei shot 59.0 percent from the field but continued to struggle at the free-throw line, making only 55.5 percent.
He was named to the All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference team, as well as All-Central Region.
In his first season at Minnesota State, he averaged 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds, with a team-high 54 blocked shots and seven double-doubles. He shot 55.6 percent from the field and 59.9 percent on free throws.