Student-Athlete Alumni Feature - Joey Harrell

June 29, 2011
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Courtesy: UNC Asheville
Editors Note: Throughout the year, the UNC Asheville Athletics Communications Office will be profiling former Bulldog student-athletes and what they are doing now. If you know of a former student-athlete you would like to be profiled, please email Mike Gore at mgore@unca.edu

Former Bulldog basketball player Joey Harrell's passport has more stamps on it than some post offices.

Since graduating in 2007, the Durham native has continued his basketball playing days throughout the world. He's played for teams in Australia, New Zealand and Portugal plus toured with a team that played in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Harrell enjoyed a fine career for the Bulldogs as he played for UNC Asheville from 2003-07. He improved with each season and was a starter for the Dogs as a senior at forward. Joey averaged seven points and seven rebounds per game as a senior.

Last year brought a new team for Joey and with it, an eyewitness to history being made. He played for a team in Egypt in the town of Alexandria.  Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt and is located right along the coast of the Mediterranean in the north central part of the country. The city is located just 136 miles from Cairo, the capital of Egypt.

And yes he was there when the uprising began that overthrew Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

"I was excited when I first signed with the team in Alexandria," stated Harrell, who was in Asheville recently working UNC Asheville head men's basketball coach Eddie Biedenbach's basketball camp.  "I had an apartment that was 14 floors up and it overlooked the Mediterranean. That wasn't a bad way to start each day. It was incredibly beautiful."

There were challenges, as well.

"I was the only American on the team and none of my teammates spoke any English," commented Harrell. "Luckily, my coach spoke some broken English so we could communicate decently."

However, Harrell started to notice the poverty that pervaded Egypt.

"Every gym we would go into there would be a photo of Mubarak and then outside the gym there would be just incredible poverty," said Harrell. "I've been to a lot of places in the world but I had never seen so much poverty than I saw in Egypt.

"I thought to myself that Mubarak had been in power for 30 years and people were still living like this that maybe it was time for a change," explained Harrell. "I didn't realize it was going to come in the next few weeks."

He remembers some other scary moments.

"I was walking down a street one day and suddenly these 30 guys came running behind me and they had machetes and were throwing rocks," commented Harrell. "They weren't interested in me but they weren't happy. I tried to stay away as best I could but it was a scary, scary moment."

Harrell remembers the day the uprising started.

"The protesters marched right down the road in front of my apartment," said Harrell. "You could hear them and you could see them for miles around. They weren't being violent but they wanted to be heard and they were."

The worst part of the uprising was when the internet and telephones went down.

"Social media played just a huge role in this uprising," said Harrell. "It was amazing with the way everyone communicated and let people know what was going on.

"But then the government shut down all forms of communications from telephones to the internet," he added. "And that created all sorts of chaos. Everything was down. The biggest thing for me was the ATM's were shut down. I had money to get out of town but there was no way for me to get to it."

Harrell never felt in any real danger but knew it was time to leave Egypt.

"I just left a lot of my stuff in my apartment and got out. I knew a friend who had a place that was a little safer than where I was and we just waited it out," he said. "After a couple of days, the ATM's finally got back open and I was able to get some money out. I got on a flight and headed to Dubai and then back to America."

Amazingly, his team from Alexandria tried to get him back for the end of the season once things calmed down.

"They tried to get to me come back for the playoffs but the time I had in Egypt was enough for me," said Harrell. "Once I got back to Durham, I wanted to stay there for awhile."

Harrell doesn't second-guess himself for going to Egypt.

"Overall, it was a good experience," declared Harrell. "I got a chance to take a cruise on the Nile River and a chance to experience a different culture. And I've really got a story to tell my kids and grandkids when the time comes."

He's had other great experiences while playing overseas. One was whale watching in New Zealand.

"Seeing those whales in New Zealand was quite an experience," stated Harrell. "That's not something you do every day.

"On the same trip, we were supposed to swim with the dolphins and we were going to do it right in the ocean," added Harrell. "But that got cancelled when a couple of the whales stayed behind to swim with the dolphins themselves.  Trust me, seeing some of those whales I didn't mind that one bit!!!

What's next for Joey Harrell?

"I know I'll be playing somewhere in the fall but I don't know where yet," said Harrell. "I have several options and looking forward to wherever it may be. I just hope wherever I am that there won't be a revolution this time."


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