Sport Leaders Eye Africa As Talent Source, Investment Target

This photograph taken on April 20, 2022 shows an exterior view of the al-Janoub Stadium in Doha (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

 

 

Africa offers a vast underdeveloped market for global sports, with thousands of athletes ready to join international ranks if only there were major investment, industry leaders and stars say.

But more government and private-sector partnerships are needed to turbo-charge African sports and bring young players into top-tier leagues of football, basketball and even American football, participants at a business forum said Monday.

In the event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hailed Africa as bursting with sporting potential, noting that more than 10 percent of players in the world’s premier basketball league were born in African countries or have African parents.

“Invariably more NBA, WNBA players will be discovered, will be nurtured, will be developed and then be able to play at the highest level,” he said of the region’s younger generations and the benefits of expanding youth training programs there.

Silver also stressed that in order to attract the “literally billions in investments that are needed,” sport in Africa must be seen as economically viable.

“In order to persuade… great businesspeople to invest in the infrastructure, we have to demonstrate that it’s a real business — that there is real return over time,” he said.

The forum featured former NBA stars like Congolese-American Dikembe Mutombo, WNBA sensation Chiney Ogwumike who is of Nigerian origin, and current Toronto Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam, a Cameroonian who caught the attention of scouts at a Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa.

American football too has beefed up its presence. More than 100 current NFL players are African, according to Osi Umenyiora, a Super Bowl champion who leads an NFL initiative to expand the pipeline of new talent from places such as Ghana and Nigeria.

“From a business standpoint it would actually make sense to me to start making business in Africa now,” Umenyiora told the audience, adding the NFL has recently opened new player camps in Africa.

– ‘Grounded’ –

The discussion comes along the launch of the new African Super League, which is dangling major prize money for the 24 football clubs that qualify for the first edition next year.

Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe said that while Africa’s link to European and American leagues is “important,” the Super League “will attract billions of dollars in football in Africa to pay the smartest and most talented young Africans and keep them on the continent.”

Recent 100-meter hurdles gold medalist Tobi Amusan, who in July became Nigeria’s first world champion in a track and field event, warned that Africa’s lack of infrastructure including training facilities could fuel a migration of athletes.

“I’m not saying don’t go to other places,” Amusan, who herself is based in Texas, told AFP.

“But if the government and private sector have stuff like this implemented in Africa, we keep our own grounded in our countries and not just have them wander away to other countries.”

The head of the region’s new top-flight basketball league also spoke of the delicate balance between international player recruitment and sports development on the ground.

“Africa needs to cease being just an exporter all the time,” said Amadou Fall, president of the Basketball Africa League, which launched last year.

AFP

NBA Confidently Resumes Global Games After Pandemic Hiatus

BOSTON, MA – MAY 15: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks grabs the rebound during the game against the Boston Celtics during Game 7 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 15, 2022 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Brian Babineau / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP)

 

 

Japan’s Rui Hachimura and France’s Killian Hayes will have the chance to play before their home-nation fans with the NBA Global Games resuming next month after a two-year layoff due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pre-season contests are set for Japan and Abu Dhabi while Paris and Mexico City will host regular-season games as the NBA, with nearly 70 percent of social media followers from outside the United States, sends superstars to thrill its worldwide audience.

“We’re so excited to be bringing our live games back to our fans around the world,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told AFP on Thursday.

“It’s a way for us to bring cultures together, to bring people together and to bring our fans together.”

Though NBA game telecasts were already viewed by fans in 214 nations and in more than 50 languages last season, Tatum says the return to live games overseas is “an important part of our business strategy.”

“There’s nothing like going to an NBA game for the hundreds of millions of fans around the world and we want fans to experience the game live.”

The NBA, with 25 percent of players from outside the United States, felt that this season teams could comfortably and confidently return overseas after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19.

“It has been very difficult over the last two years with the pandemic,” Tatum said. “Our first and foremost concern is to have games where we can conduct them in a safe and secure manner.”

The NBA, with 97 percent of players and 100 percent of staff vaccinated, consulted doctors, medical specialists and officials in each city before finalizing the global schedule.

“We’ve learned, as the world has learned, to move on with Covid and this is the right time,” Tatum said. “We’re able to bring back the games. We’re confident we can keep everyone safe and healthy.”

That includes the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Atlanta Hawks playing the first NBA games in the Arabian Gulf when they meet for pre-season games October 6 and 8 in Abu Dhabi.

“They have got a world-class facility,” Tatum said. “They know how to do it well.”

The reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors will visit Japan for pre-season games September 30 and October 2 against Washington, which boasts Japanese forward Hachimura.

“With the pride they have for him, it’s going to be huge there,” Tatum said. “These things mater. It’s going to excite people.”

Tatum expects much the same thrill when the Chicago Bulls meet Hayes and the Detroit Pistons in a regular-season game at Paris on January 19.

“For Killian Hayes to play in his home country is going to be tremendous,” Tatum said.

He also expects NBA fans from across Europe to attend the Paris matchup, which also features Chicago’s two-time NBA All-Star Nikola Vučević of Montenegro.

The Miami Heat and San Antonio Heat will meet in Mexico City in a regular-season game on December 17.

– NBA eyes India, Africa –
More global games are in the works, Tatum said, noting, “There are more markets that want games than we can have them.”

“The world is a big place. We’ve played in a lot of places but there are still a lot of opportunities.”

Germany, Italy and Greece are among several European possibilities while London has hosted several contests.

In total, the league has played 205 games in 20 nations outside US and Canadian cities since 1978.

“At some point we will be back in India,” Tatum said, adding, “I could see pre-season, regular-season games in Africa.”

In the 2019-20 season, the last before the pandemic struck, the NBA played pre-season contests in India, Japan and China and regular-season games in Mexico and France.

Last season, the NBA had a record 121 international players from 40 nations, with 18 from Canada and seven from Germany.

The past four NBA Most Valuable Player awards were won by Serbian Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets in 2022 and 2021 and Greek star Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee in 2019 and 2020.

Those two and Cameroonian star big man Joel Embiid of Philadelphia were last season’s three MVP finalists, another first for global NBA talent.

Four Antetokounmpo Brothers Selected In Greece Squad

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Alex Antetokounmpo and Giannis Antetokounmpo attend the world premiere of Rise at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California on June 22, 2022.

 

 

NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and three of his brothers on Tuesday were named by Greece coach Dimitris Itoudis in his squad for this year’s Eurobasket and World Cup qualifiers.

Giannis, 27, and Thanasis play for the Milwaukee Bucks, Alex has just signed for the Bucks’ affiliate NBA G League side Wisconsin Herd and Kostas last played for French club Asvel but is now a free agent.

Giannis has played in 49 games for Greece, scoring 573 points.

Also included by Itoudis was American-born Tyler Dorsey who has just signed for the Dallas Mavericks.

Greece will play Serbia on August 25 and Belgium three days later in 2023 World Cup qualifiers.

The Eurobasket, being hosted by Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Georgia, gets underway on September 1.

Greece have been drawn in Group C alongside Estonia, Ukraine, Britain, Italy and Croatia.

FIBA World Cup Qualifiers: D’Tigers Lose To Cape Verde In Kigali

Nigeria's D'Tigers

 

Nigeria’s D’Tigers have begun the third window of the FIBA African World Cup Qualifiers with a 79-70 loss against Cape Verde at the BK arena in Kigali.

Nigeria won the first quarter 15-14 on a Chimezie Metu lay-up as time expired, but lost the second 25-11 before bouncing back to win the third quarter 21-17. The fourth quarter ended 23 points apiece.

READ ALSO: FG Reverses Ban On International Basketball

Christian Mekowulu led the D’Tigers with 13 points and 13 rebounds, Ikenna Ndugba also scored 13 points, with Uche Iroegbu scoring 12 and Metu adding 10.

Ivan Almeida led Cape Verde with 14 points and 13 rebounds as they out-rebounded Nigeria 53-40.

D’Tigers will face Mali in their second Group A game on Saturday with their last game against Uganda on Sunday.

FG Reverses Ban On International Basketball

The Nigerian girls are the African champions. Photo: FIBA.

 

The Federal Government has rescinded its decision to suspend Nigeria’s basketball teams from all international competitions.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Youth and Sports Development Ismaila Abubakar disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday.

He said the latest decision is based on a letter of appeal from the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), signed by Mister Musa Kida.

“President Muhammadu Buhari, being one that is committed to youth development and desirous of ensuring that they are availed of all opportunities in sports and other endeavors considered the appeal and in the overriding spirit of national interest, love for our youth, and in order to avoid sending basket development into a long period of suspension when NBBF have now committed to the resolution of the issues which precipitated the withdrawal in the first place has approved the return of Nigeria to international basketball immediately,” Abubakar said in a statement after the briefing.

“In securing this approval, of note is the caution that the laws of Nigeria cannot be subjugated to any other law, and every Nigerian entity must respect Nigerian laws and authority governing various sectors. Failure to do this, as with any constitutionally bound sovereign nation will attract sanctions.”

He explained that the “appeal letter also critically gave some key
undertakings: to immediately set in motion the process of status review or
constitutional amendments from stakeholders as collated by the Ministry of
Youth and Sports Development; to set up a high-powered team to reconcile all
contending parties in the basketball family at home and abroad, and a
commitment to work with the Ministry in the governance and development of
basketball among other things.”

He said President Muhammadu Buhari has manded the ministry to ensure the implementation of the undertakings by the NBBF and “report back to Mr. President on progress”.

Before the reversal of the ban, FIBA had replaced the D’Tigress with Mali ahead of the FIBA Women’s World Cup to be held later in the year.

Mali Replaces D’Tigress At FIBA World Cup After FG’s Withdrawal

The D’Tigress in action during a game against France. Photo: [email protected] DtigressNG

 

The world governing body for basketball, FIBA, has replaced Nigeria’s female basketball team, the D’Tigress, with Mali for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney, Australia.

Nigeria was disqualified after President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the country from participating in all international basketball competitions and activities for a period of two years.

The President’s withdrawal is said to be aimed at revamping the sports from the grassroots in Nigeria.

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“FIBA was informed about the decision of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to withdraw the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) from all international basketball competitions and activities for a period of two years,” a statement from FIBA said.

“In subsequent communications with the NBBF, and despite FIBA’s request, it has become clear that against the circumstances created by the government’s decision, the NBBF is unable to confirm its participation in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022.

“Given the multiple strict deadlines that cannot be postponed in order to ensure the successful staging of a major international event (visa procedures, schedules, ticket sales, accommodations, friendly games, preliminary rosters, flight tickets, accreditations, etc.) and to protect the integrity of the competition, the FIBA Executive Committee has decided as follows:

“Nigeria’s withdrawal from the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 is confirmed. Mali, as the next ranked team from Group B of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, is invited to participate in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022

“FIBA will announce whether there will be any other decisions related to the NBBF’s participation in other FIBA competitions and any potential disciplinary measures in due course.”

U.S. Consulate, OBN Academy Launch Basketball Camp For Underserved Youths

Brian Babineau / NBAE / Getty Images / AFP

 

The United States Consulate-General, Lagos and the Organised Basketball Network (OBN) Academy have launched a sports diplomacy programme ‘Uplift African Youth Through Basketball’ for 100 boys and girls aged 6-18 from underserved communities in Rivers State.

The basketball camp provided the participants with an opportunity to learn from mentors, including alumni of the U.S. government exchange programmes, about the sport, gender-based violence, entrepreneurship, and inclusion of marginalised communities.

Speaking at the launch of the basketball camp in Port Harcourt, U.S. Consulate Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Jennifer Foltz, highlighted the government’s commitment to empowering youth in underserved communities with valuable life skills through participation in sports.

She explained that the U.S. Mission has organised many sports initiatives through the Sports Envoy programme, which recruits passionate, articulate, community-oriented professional athletes from the United States, to connect with communities in every corner of the world, using sports as the platform, to build connections and to bridge cultural divides.

“Our sports programmes are not just about sports, they are a way to engage people especially youth, on important topics,” she said. ”For our programme today, the youth participants will learn about basketball, but also about gender-based violence and inclusion of marginalised communities. In addition, they will build their communication, leadership, and teamwork skills.”

Rivers State Deputy Governor, Ipalibo Banigo, who declared the basketball camp open, congratulated the participants on their enthusiasm and involvement in the programme and encouraged them to keep dreaming big.

She expressed her satisfaction at the hard work demonstrated by the participants and conveyed her appreciation to the U.S. Consulate and OBN Academy, a local basketball institution founded by former NBA player Obinna Ekezie, for providing mentorship to the participants.

In his remarks, Ekezie said the basketball camp would provide the girls and boys with skills that will enable them to impact their communities positively.

He added that the participants would benefit from follow-on activities throughout the summer.

“Through this basketball camp, we have been able to teach important life and sports values, such as respect, discipline, overcoming adversity, combatting gender-based violence and basic entrepreneurship skills.

“We made a lasting impact in Port Harcourt, and we are grateful to the U.S. government for the partnership,” Ekezie said.

The next edition of the “Uplift African Youth Through Basketball” will take place in Lagos in the coming weeks. The basketball diplomacy project highlights the importance of sports and education for young people and promotes dialogue, tolerance, and respect for diversity.

FIBA Threatens Sanctions Over Nigeria’s Basketball Suspension

The Nigerian girls had lost their fight game against China. Photo: FIBA

 

World basketball body FIBA has threatened to sanction Nigeria over its decision to withdraw from international competitions for two years.

FIBA in a letter signed by its Head of Legal, Jaime Lamboy, and dated May 18, 2022, the body said Nigeria’s decision was in breach of Article 9.7 of FIBA’s General Statutes.

“National member federations shall manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties,” the letter addressed to Nigeria Basketball Federation President, Musa Ahmadu-Kida, read in part.

Article 10.2 of the FIBA Statutes stated that on the initiative of the Secretary-General, FIBA Central Board may suspend a national member federation for the breach of Article 9.7.

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The implication of the sanction would mean that Nigeria will miss out on the 2024 Olympic Games, as well as the 2025 World Championships for the male and female teams.

FIBA also reacted to a letter earlier written to them by the Ahmadu-Kida-led NBBF board.

“In such letter, you pre-emptively informed FIBA of the apparent decision by the Nigerian Government (Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports Development) intending to have Nigeria take a break from all international engagements for two years and enabling an Interim Management Committee to run the affairs of the basketball in Nigeria,” the letter read.

“As you already are aware, Nigeria is due to participate in the following FIBA competitions in the upcoming months: FIBA 2023 Basketball World Cup Qualifiers (FBWC23 Qualifiers) FIBA 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup (FWBWC22).

“As you are aware, any withdrawal of Nigeria from the abovementioned competitions will trigger potential disciplinary sanctions as per the FIBA Internal Regulations. Furthermore, if the absence of Nigeria from international competitions for the next two years materialises, the consequences may spread out well past such a two-year period.

“For example, please note that the withdrawal from the FBWC23 Qualifiers is also a withdrawal from the Paris 2024 Olympic qualification process. Similarly, depending on third-party results, the same situation could apply with respect to FIBA AfroBasket 2025.”

“Accordingly, we request from the NBBF to immediately inform FIBA whether its participation in the abovementioned competitions is or not ratified.

“We take the opportunity to remind the NBBF of its obligations to manage its affairs with no influence from third parties, as per Article 9.6 of FIBA General Statutes.”

This is coming a week after President Muhammadu Buhari approved with immediate effect, Nigeria’s withdrawal from all international basketball competitions for two years, following a lingering leadership rift in the NBBF.

Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, had explained that the withdrawal would help the country revamp the sport from the grassroots, as well as put an end to the basketball crises.

‘It Takes Away Our Future’: D’Tigress Wants FG To Overturn Basketball Ban

The D’Tigress pose for a photo following their Afrobasket win. Source: Facebook/NBBF.

 

The D’Tigress have called on the Federal Government to overturn Nigeria’s withdrawal from international basketball competitions for two years. 

Their plea followed the ban, which was announced by the Minister of Sports and Youth Development Sunday Dare, last week.  He pinned the decision on the need to revamp the game amid a power tussle in the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF).

But in a letter on Friday, the female team which recently qualified for the  FIBA Women’s World Cup competition, faulted the move, insisting it would erase all they have worked for.

“The D’Tigress team would like to state that we do not agree with this ban. This ban is taking away all our future competitions, accomplishments, and goals to elevate, inspire, and make Nigeria proud,” the team said in a Twitter tread

“We would like to be given the opportunity to play for our country that we passionately love to represent in this upcoming @FIBAWWC competition.”


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D’Tigress Defeat Mali, Qualify For FIBA World Cup

FG Withdraws Nigeria From International Basketball Competitions

‘Inspiration To Nigerian Athletes’

D'Tigress
The D’Tigress in action against France during the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. Photo: [email protected] DtigressNG

 

The African champions argued that the team “worked very hard to be 3x Afrobasket Champions, Olympians and now we are blessed with another opportunity to continue that representation for Nigeria.

“We want Nigerian Basketball to continue to grow and succeed on every level; from the local leagues, grassroots, and even on the international stage!

“We believe that all levels of Nigerian basketball can excel with the proper attention, togetherness, and organization. Our team is a testament to how successful Nigerian Basketball can be and how we have been an inspiration to all Nigerian athletes across the globe.”

While thanking their coaches, medical staff, organisers, and fans for their support, the D’Tigress said the ban also affects this set of persons.

“Your commitment and loyalty to our team will never go unnoticed,” the statement added.

“Our goal is to play and represent Nigeria proudly! We, as the Nigerian Women’s National Team plea for the reversal of the International Basketball ban for Nigeria. We hope to be heard! Thank you.”

Before the two-year ban, the Nigerian girls were scheduled to play at the FIBA Women’s World Cup later this year in Australia.

They were grouped alongside Australia, France, Japan, Serbia, and Canada for the competition which runs from September 22 to October 1.

FG Withdraws Nigeria From International Basketball Competitions

A file photo of the D’Tigers, Nigeria’s male basketball team.

 

The Federal Government on Thursday announced the withdrawal of Nigeria from all international basketball competitions for a period of two years.

Briefing journalists in Abuja, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said President Muhammadu Buhari approved Nigeria’s withdrawal from the competitions.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ismaila Abubakar, the minister said a committee would be set up to oversee basketball leagues in the country.

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“Following the unending crisis which have plagued and nearly crippled the development of basketball in Nigeria, President Buhari has approved the withdrawal of Nigeria from all international basketball competitions for a period of two years. This is with immediate effect,” he said.

According to the Minister, the withdrawal of Nigeria is to concentrate efforts towards revamping the sport from the grassroots as well as domestic leagues which have become moribund.

“This will also allow for the setting up of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to oversee the management and development of the domestic basketball leagues in Nigeria,” he said.

Dare also reiterated the government’s interest and commitment to the development of the sport of Basketball in Nigeria as well as huge talents of our youth domestically in an atmosphere that is free of rancour and squabbles.

He called on players, officials, fans, and other stakeholders of the sport to remain calm as the government embarks on far-reaching initiatives to reposition, sustain and stabilize the game of Basketball for growth and success in the long-term interest of the country.

Unpaid Bonuses: D’Tigers, D’Tigress Money Ready To Be Disbursed – FG

 

The Federal Government says unpaid bonuses and allowances owed the D’Tigers and D’Tigress are ready.

On Wednesday, D’Tigress players had taken to social media to lament over their unpaid bonuses, accusing the Federal Government of not rewarding them for winning the 2021 Women’s AfroBasket Champions in Cameroon.

READ ALSO: D’Tigress Protest Unpaid Wages, Allowances

The AfroBasket trophy. Source: Facebook/NBBF.

 

But in a statement by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Ismaila Abubakar, the monies donated to both the senior female national team and their male counterpart are domiciled with the country’s apex.

“The $230,000 donated to the basketball teams by the banks under the Adopt-a-Team programme of the ministry is intact in the Nigeria Basketball Federation’s (NBBF) official domiciliary account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),” Ismaila added in the statement issued on Wednesday.

“That only the 12 female team members of D’Tigress have supplied their foreign account numbers. The Ministry waited for the account numbers of the Male Team to be supplied so that the processing of payments can be one-off as requested by the CBN.”

File photo:  Nigeria’s top performer shoots a three-pointer in the final group B match against Italy at the 2020 Olympics. Photo: @NigeriaBasket

 

According to him, the ministry had also asked the CBN to start processing the payment to both teams, explaining that the D’Tigers will be paid as soon as their account details are supplied.

“Ministry wishes to state further that all outstanding -Olympics and Paralympics Games allowances and bonuses are being processed and only slowed down by funds availability,” the ministry’s permanent secretary further explained.

It added that the Ministry of Finance has been informed about the “outstanding allowances and payments due to the NBBF and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and efforts are being made to secure the release”.

President Buhari Congratulates D’Tigress On Afrobasket Feat

Nigeria’s D’Tigress Players celebrating their win.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Nigeria’s senior women basketball team, D’Tigress on their victory at the 2021 FIBA Afrobasket Women’s Championship in Cameroon.

According to a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity, Garba Shehu, the president was extremely delighted to see the Nigerian team excel over and over again on the regional and world stages, demonstrating that with hard work, resilience and dedication, victory is sure.

“President Buhari joins Nigerians in celebrating the unique achievements of the winning team, praying that the discipline and talent which made them three-time Africa champions in a row, will inspire more breakthroughs in their careers,” the statement read.

The Nigerian team beat Mali 70-59 to be crowned champions of the 2021 edition in Yaounde, Cameroon. They won the previous editions in 2017 and 2019.

The defending champions have been impressive all through the tournament and stayed focused on their objective of breaking records in the final against Mali.

 

Read Also: Nigeria’s D’Tigress Win Historic 3rd Consecutive Afrobasket Title

 

They won the first quarter 22-11 but the Malians bounced back to take the second quarter 13-9 to make it a tight contest at half-time.

In the third quarter, it was the D’Tigress show. Captain Fantastic, Adaora Elonu, Victoria Macaulay and Ezinne Kalu worked so well with the team and they won 28-14. In the 4th quarter, coach Otis Hughley’s team sustained the momentum and with four minutes remaining, they will enjoy a 20-point lead over their opponents.

Mali put up a late fight to win the 4th quarter 21-11 and reduced the deficit to 11 points. Macaulay emerged Nigeria’s top performer with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 3 blocks. Mariam Coulibally posted 13 points and 9 rebounds to finish as top performer for Mali.

Elonu and Kalu were made the tournament’s All-Star 5. The hardworking captain fantastic, Elonu was voted the MVP of the tournament.

This is Nigeria’s 5th Afrobasket title with previous successes in 2003 and 2005.

The D’Tigress have also qualified for the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Australia.