It’s a Thursday night in early January at Fleming Gymnasium. UNC Greensboro women’s basketball is about an hour from tipoff against East Tennessee State. This is the time when senior guard Nadine Soliman is getting into her zone, which starts off with her being relaxed before upping her energy level as the start of the game approaches.
She puts up shots with a pair of earbuds in. The music has changed over time, but the last song she hears before leaving the court has remained the same – “Ahla Haga Feeki” by Mohamed Hamaki, an up-tempo pop tune sung in Arabic.
“It just gives me a lot of positivity and a lot of good vibes,” Soliman said. “And actually, this song, I watch the video of somebody else in it, but it brings so much positivity and energy.”
It’s also a song from home.
Soliman, who became the all-time leading scorer in UNCG women’s basketball history on Saturday, Feb. 1, grew up in Cairo, Egypt, and is part of a basketball family. Both her father and mother, Mohamed and Iman, played the sport. During the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Mohamed averaged 25.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the Egyptian national team.
Both of Soliman’s brothers also play the game, one of whom plays for a professional club in Egypt. So, it’s only natural for her to keep up the legacy. She started playing basketball when she was just 5 years old.
Although, she tried to break tradition and joined a volleyball team. That, however, lasted all of two weeks.
“It wasn’t even a long time,” Soliman joked, “but everybody was just shocked like, ‘How is that even happening?’”
Soliman graduated early from high school and spent a year convincing her father to let her come to the United States to play basketball. It was a dream come true.
“I did not even believe I was coming here until I actually landed at the airport, and then I remember (coach Trina Patterson) came and picked me up from the airport, and I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m actually in the states right now,’” Soliman said.
Te’ja Twitty, a senior guard/forward from Rutherfordton, North Carolina, started at UNCG the same year as Soliman, and the two share a strong friendship.
When Soliman graduates this year from UNCG, she hopes to play professional basketball in Europe. Twitty said it’s going to be difficult when the two play their final game together.
“We don’t want to leave each other,” Twitty said. “I know with Nadine, since we came in together, it’ll be real emotional.”
Also arriving in 2016 was Patterson. That year in Egypt, Soliman was the leading scorer for Al Ahly, which won the Egyptian club championship that season. Patterson, however, recruited Soliman on the prospect of winning a conference championship, something the Spartans last accomplished in 1998, instead of focusing on scoring.
But it was scoring that Soliman excelled at during her freshman season.
“In the past five years, we weren’t relevant at all,” Patterson said, “and then Nadine comes in her first year and leads all freshmen in scoring in the country.
“She comes in with a knockout punch.”
Soliman is the Spartans’ leading scorer this season, but she is also third in rebounding, third in assists, and fifth in steals. After a 56-42 loss Saturday against the Samford Bulldogs, UNCG (16-6, 5-2) is tied for second with Wofford in the Southern Conference.
A quick search of UNCG’s women’s basketball record book for Soliman’s name yields 39 results for all-time records.
At the start of the 2019-20 season, she was third in career scoring. In her first three seasons playing for the Spartans, Soliman scored 1,559 career points – only 348 behind the 1,907 career points scored by Lucy Mason from 2012-15.
Coming into the UNCG’s game Saturday against Samford, Soliman needed only six points to pass Mason. A free throw with 47 seconds left in the game was her sixth point of a 10-point performance, making her the all-time leading scorer in UNCG women’s basketball history.
Soliman said she knew she had a chance to break the record but she wasn’t aware she did it until they announced it during the game.
“It feels amazing; I still can’t believe it,” Soliman said. “I knew it was within reach, and everybody thought I was kind of mad that I didn’t get it back in the last game (against Mercer). I knew it was coming.”
With this behind her, the next goal is winning a conference championship – something that brought her to Greensboro all the way from Cairo. Something that will allow her to make even more history.
Story by Adam Houston, special contributor to uncgspartans.com
Photography courtesy of UNCG Athletics