Egypt’s Zamalek Wins Inaugural Basketball Africa League

2021 BAL CHAMPIONS Photo Credit: Basketball Africa League/Twitter

 

Zamalek Basketball Club of Egypt have defeated US Monastir of Tunisia 76-63 to win the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) Championship, which took place at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.

The final game was broadcast to fans in 215 countries and territories in 15 languages.

BAL President, Amadou Gallo Fall, presented Zamalek with the trophy designed to represent the baobab tree, which is native to Africa and known as the “tree of life” for providing food, water, shelter, and protection to people and animals alike.

Following the game, the BAL announced the first recipients of the league’s end-of-season awards, which honoured pioneering African NBA Legends Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Dikembe Mutombo (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Manute Bol (South Sudan).

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The BAL created the Hakeem Olajuwon BAL Most Valuable Player Award, Dikembe Mutombo BAL Defensive Player of the Year Award, and Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award in recognition of their legendary NBA careers and off-court contributions.

2021 BAL CHAMPIONS Photo Credit: Basketball Africa League/Twitter

 

Award winners were selected by a panel of sportswriters, broadcasters, and NBA team scouts in attendance, with nominees receiving three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.

The 12 BAL Head Coaches voted for the Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award.  Coaches could not vote for players on their own team. Both the BAL group phase and Playoffs were considered as part of the voting process.

Walter Hodge (Zamalek) was named the Hakeem Olajuwon BAL Most Valuable Player after leading his team to an undefeated 6-0 record with per-game averages of 15.5 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.0 rebounds.

Anas Osama Mahmoud (Zamalek) was named the Dikembe Mutombo BAL Defensive Player of the Year after recording per game averages of 6.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.

Makrem Ben Romdhane (US Monastir) received the Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award for exemplifying the ideals of sportsmanship and camaraderie.

Additional awards will be announced tomorrow on the BAL’s social media channels, including the BAL All-First Team, 2021 BAL Scoring Champion, and Ubuntu Award, which is awarded to an individual or organization that has made an impact on the local community during the first BAL season.

Olajuwon became the first player from Africa to be drafted into the NBA when he was selected first overall in the 1984 Draft by the Houston Rockets.  The two-time NBA champion and Hall of Fame inductee was also named league MVP in 1993-94 when he led the Rockets to the franchise’s first NBA title.

Mutombo won a record-tying four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and was selected to the NBA All-Defensive Team six times during his Hall of Fame career. Bol, who passed away in 2010, enjoyed a 10-year NBA career as a 7-7 center and is recognized as one of the most imposing shot-blockers of his generation.

Champions from the national leagues in Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia earned their participation in the inaugural BAL season.  The remaining six teams, which came from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, and Rwanda, secured their participation through BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by FIBA Regional Office Africa across the continent in late 2019.

Basketball Africa League: Patriots Defeat Rivers Hoopers In Opening Match

Basketball players perform during the opening match of the Basketball Africa League in Kigali, Rwanda on May 17, 2021.

 

Former NBA player, Nigeria’s Ben Uzoh became the first player to score in the newly-created Basketball Africa League (BAL), but the historic game belonged to the host Patriots Basketball Club of Rwanda who defeated Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers 83-60 at the Kigali Arena.

Although the Hoopers had a promising start, they struggled to adjust to the Patriots’ aggressive defence.

And turning the ball over 20 times didn’t help.

Wilson Nshobozwabyosenumukiza, who came off the bench, and Prince Ibeh led the Patriots comeback, and the Nigerians couldn’t find any answers.

And to make matters worse for the Hoopers, they got in foul trouble early in the second quarter, and things were never the same.

Nshobozwabyosenumukiza, who established a record for most steals in a single game in the FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers in February, proved crucial defensively on Sunday, making the Hoopers look helpless.

Trailing 18-17 at the end of the first quarter, Ibeh thought it was about time to turn things around.

Ibeh’s two thunderous dunks early in the second quarter ignited the Patriots to a 13-0 run as the hosts took absolute control of the game, and they never looked back, leading at one point by as many as 29 points.

Costner Brandon led all scorers with 20 points and Ibeh contributed 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots for the hosts.

Patriots guard Kenneth Gasana, who contributed seven points and four assists, paid tribute to his team.

“We played good inside, we limited a lot of inside points and we took advantage of the turnover that they had,” the Rwandan international said, adding that “it feels good to start the BAL with a victory.”

Talking about Ibeh’s performance, Gasana added: “He’s a beast, I loved the way he played. He really protected the paint.”

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Taren Sullivan did a bit of everything trying to keep the Rivers in the game, but his team-high 15 points weren’t good enough to avoid the Nigerians’ defeat.

Making his professional basketball debut, Jermaine Cole scored three points, with two assists and three rebounds.

Patriots resume their Group A campaign on Tuesday, facing Madagascar’s GNBC, a team they beat twice in the BAL Qualifiers.

Rivers Hoopers will return to action on Wednesday against Tunisian champions US Monastir.

Rapper J. Cole Joins Rwanda Basketball Team

J. Cole

 

 

Rap star J. Cole has signed with the Rwanda Patriots and will play as a shooting forward in the maiden NBA-backed Basketball Africa League which starts in the East African nation on Sunday.

The award-winning rapper and music producer, whose full name is Jermaine Lamarr Cole, 36, played the sport in high school and university and has long dreamed of a professional basketball career.

His name featured on the roster of 13 players released Friday night by Patriots head coach Alan Major. Cole will play in jersey number 15 for the team representing Rwanda in the BAL.

“J. Cole is a very good shooter. We picked him because He has a really high IQ for the game,” Patriots chief operations officer Haydee Ndayishimiye told AFP.

“He has a history of playing the game … We just thought that he is a great fit with the team and as we have seen in practice he is gelling well with the team. While they are practicing with him, they are looking good out there. He really compliments the team,” she added.

Ndayishimiye said Cole’s contract was confidential, and he would only be with the team for the duration of the tournament.

Cole will play in the tournament’s opening game between the Patriots and Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers on Sunday.

The BAL tournament will run until May 30.

The first edition of the 12-club event was scheduled for last year, but had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

BAL president Amadou Fall said the league “will provide a platform for elite players from across the continent to showcase their talent and inspire fans of all ages”.

The BAL is being supported by the International Basketball Federation and the USA-based National Basketball Association.

It will be the first NBA-sponsored professional league out of the US.

Cole’s Rwandan debut will come two days after the release of his sixth studio album “The Off-Season”, a nod to his love of basketball.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’m like, are you going to be doing this forever?” Cole said in a recent interview with Slam, an American basketball magazine.

Basketball Africa League Unveils Team Rosters Ahead Of Sunday’s Tip-Off

Roster for Nigeria’s representative, Rivers Hoopers. PHOTO CREDIT: Africa Basketball League (BAL)

 

The Basketball Africa League (BAL) have unveiled the rosters of the 12 participating teams ahead of the league’s inaugural season, which tips off on Sunday, May 16 at 4:00 p.m. CAT / 10 a.m. ET at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.

The BAL rosters, subject to change, feature 154 players from 24 countries across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S.

Each of the 12 teams, which come from 12 African countries, will have up to 13 players (12 active and one inactive), at least nine of whom are citizens in their respective team’s home country and up to four of whom are from other countries, with no more than two players per team from outside of Africa.

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Ben Uzoh, who joined Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers, is poised to become the first former NBA player to play in the BAL, having played for the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Toronto Raptors from 2010-12.  He was also a member of the Nigeria Senior Men’s National Team at the 2016 Olympics, FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, and FIBA AfroBasket in 2013 and 2015.

Nine players bring NBA G League experience to the BAL’s first season: Brandon Jay Costner and Prince Ibeh (Rwanda’s Patriots BBC); Myck Kabongo and Demarcus Holland (Mozambique’s Ferroviàrio de Maputo), Ibrahima Thomas (Mali’s AS Police); Uzoh, Taren Sullivan and Robert Christopher Daniels (Rivers Hoopers); and Ater Majok (Tunisia’s US Monastir).  Twenty-one BAL players have NCAA Division 1 experience, with 11 of the 12 teams featuring at least one former Division 1 player.

BAL teams feature a combined 19 players who previously participated in Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Africa, the NBA, and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program for top prospects from across the continent, including Mohab Yasser Abdelaty Abdallatif (Egypt’s Zamalek).  Abdullatif is poised to graduate from NBA Academy Africa this year and becomes the first NBA Academy prospect to play in the BAL.

 

NBA-Backed Africa League Postpones Launch Over Virus

Brian Babineau / NBAE / Getty Images / AFP

 

The launch of the inaugural Basketball Africa League has been postponed due to fears over the new-coronavirus outbreak, the NBA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The NBA-backed 12-team league had been due to tip off on March 13 in Dakar, Senegal but has now been put on hold due to health concerns.

The announcement came a day after Senegal confirmed its first case of COVID-19, only the second infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Basketball Africa League President Amadou Gallo Fall confirmed the postponement in a statement released by the NBA.

“Following the recommendation of the Senegalese government regarding the escalating health concerns related to the coronavirus, the BAL’s inaugural season will be postponed,” Fall said.

“I am disappointed we are not able to tip-off this historic league as scheduled but look forward to the highly-anticipated launch of the BAL at a later date.”

Twelve club teams from across Africa had been due to participate in the league, which is backed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA.

It is the first time the NBA has helped organize a league outside North America.

AFP