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Ezzeddine leaves Lobos, plans to play professionally overseas

Karim Ezzeddine is leaving the UNM men’s basketball team to pursue a professional playing career overseas, the team said Friday morning in a news release.

The 6-foot-8 junior forward from France, who played in all 17 games this season for the Lobos, will withdraw from classes, which started at UNM this week for the spring semester. Ezzeddine, who was not at Thursday’s practice, is already in the process of trying to sign with an agent and secure a contract to begin playing professionally immediately.

Here is UNM’s statement released on Friday morning:

“Karim Ezzeddine informed Lobo coach Paul Weir yesterday of his decision to leave the program immediately and pursue professional basketball opportunities overseas. He will withdraw from classes this semester and intends to sign a contract as soon as possible.”

The Journal asked to speak with Ezzeddine on Thursday, but as he was not at practice, he was not available for media interviews. If and when Ezzeddine chooses to talk with the media about his decision, the Journal will update this story.

Ezzeddine was visibly frustrated with being pulled from Tuesday’s game in San Diego. Press row at San Diego State’s Viejas Arena is located directly behind the visiting team’s bench, and with about three minutes remaining in the game, , and several media members saw UNM associate head coach Chris Harriman go talk to Ezzeddine, who was standing at the end of the team’s bench. Harriman then talked to Weir and then back to Ezzeddine, who was then sent back to the team’s locker room for the remainder of the game.

On Thursday,  Weir would not elaborate on the situation until Ezzeddine had things in order.

“With Karim, there was a situation and we’re continuing to talk,” Weir said on Thursday. “We spoke a little bit (Wednesday in San Diego) in the airport. We spoke a little bit again today. We’re going to continue to work through that and once I have a final resolution is when I’ll release something. I don’t want to necessarily prematurely say stuff about that.”

Ezzeddine was not kicked off the team or suspended.

He averaged 17.1 minutes per game and 4.3 points to go along with 3.6 rebounds.

After playing a minimum of 17 minutes in each of the first 13 games of the season, Ezzeddine’s minutes took a dramatic downturn once league play began. His minutes played in the past four games were 5, 4, 13 and 3 on Tuesday.

A versatile forward who transferred after two seasons at two-year Northwest Florida State  College, Ezzeddine was an energetic spark off the bench at times, but he also had struggles with fouls and turnovers. Ezzeddine leads UNM in fouls committed per 40 minutes at 5.5, which ranks him the fourth most of 69 Mountain West players who play an average of at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes. He also had the highest turnover rate at 28.1, which essentially is a percentage of the possessions he touches the ball that end in a turnover. That figure ranks second highest of the 69 league players.

The Lobos first game without Ezzeddine will be Saturday against Wyoming at 4 p.m. in Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit.

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