The Basketball Africa League roadshow is in Kigali in May, for the Playoffs and Finals, from May 21-28, where Zamalek will attempt to remain unbeaten and thus defend their BAL title.
The second edition of the BAL saw 12 teams from around the continent compete in a very different format from 2021, across three months instead of a two-week COVID-induced bubble.
The tournament was divided into three stints. The Sahara Conference took place in Dakar, Senegal from March 5-15, with Rwanda Energy Group coming out tops. The Sahara Conference saw REG, Tunisia's US Monastir, Morocco's AS Sale, and Guinea's SLAC qualify for the playoffs.
The Nile Conference was played in Cairo, Egypt, from April 9-19, and saw Zamalek, Petro de Luanda, Cape Town Tigers, and FAP advanced to the final eight.
KIGALI - Playoff and Final
The Cape Town Tigers can hold their heads high after defying expectations at the Basketball Africa League [BAL], but a lack of cohesion on and off the court cost them a chance to progress further than the quarterfinals. Teething problems with administration, and internal disagreements among coaches and players alike, meant a star-studded team was never able to realise its full potential, and even reaching the Playoffs in Kigali was unexpected.
After falling short of earning an NBA roster spot during last year's Summer League stint with the Toronto Raptors, Zalamek center Anas Mahmoud is determined to earn another shot through the Basketball Africa League.
Cape Town Tigers point guard Myck Kabongo is a significantly better basketballer than fellow rapper J. Cole, it's fair to say, but the Democratic Republic of Congo international has nothing but respect for the Grammy winner, both on the court and off. Kabongo and Cole are not unknown to each other, even before they both appeared at the inaugural Basketball Africa League last year, as they've know each other since their high school days. Cole's manager, Ibrahim 'IB' Hamad is a good childhood friend of Kabongo's, who grew up in Canada and the US.
DJ Strawberry is very, very used to people seeing his full name, Darryl Strawberry Jr., and doing a double take. "Not the real Darryl Strawberry?!" they'll say, as if the 36-year-old basketballer could conceivably be a 60-year-old baseball legend. It doesn't bother him, really. Being a professional athlete, and a former NBA player, the Zamalek shooting guard is well used to navigating questions about his father, their relationship and the obviously different sporting choice he made.
Angola is an African basketball giant, and Petro de Luanda is the country's best team. But they're veterans, to put it nicely, and Petro coach Jose Neto hopes to bring the team's average age down. Way down. Petro finished third at the inaugural Basketball Africa League last year, and are well placed for a run to the final next week in Kigali, Rwanda. They're incredibly experienced, but the core of veterans will soon run out of time, leaving the team floundering.
The NBA finally have a footprint in Africa's most populous country, with an office opening in Lagos, Nigeria, in February this year, and Gbemisola Abudu, NBA Africa VP and country lead, is on a mission to make it as wide as possible. With the NBA boasting a number of high-profile Nigeria-origin players over the years, including Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo [his original Nigerian surname was Adetokunbo], Abudu and NBA Africa are eager to develop the wealth of talent from grassroots level up.
Some would say that Vincent Ntunja walked away from a potential NBA career, but the people of Gugulethu in Cape Town, where he has become a basketball and philanthropic icon, would say he walked towards them. When Ntunja was in high school, dreaming of the bright arena lights of the USA, he won the MVP award at Michael Jordan Flight School, presented to him by the man himself, but then he turned his back on it all.
NBA Academy players Emmanuel Okorafor, from Nigeria, and Khaman Maluach, from South Sudan, have a lot in common, from a love for basketball to a shared passion for playing FIFA... but they differ very strongly when it comes to the Premier League teams they support. Bitter rivals Chelsea and Manchester United have staunch supporters in the two teens, who met when they joined the NBA Academy in Senegal, and then played at the Basketball Africa League's Nile Conference in April.
How to watch:
The BAL airs across Africa on ESPN's channels on DStv, as well as selected Free To Air partners. ESPN+ and ESPN News will air the tournament in the US.
Cobra Sports head coach Manyang 'Manny' Berberi is following a formula that has served him well since his basketball coaching career started in Australia: Putting faith in South Sudanese youngsters and teeing them up for bigger opportunities.
Petro de Luanda shooting guard Carlos Morais has been around professional hoops for half of his 36-year life, with more success than most in African basketball, but looks back on early career decisions with a pang of regret. The Angola international and Olympian, who is playing for Petro at the BAL in Cairo this month, has had many career highlights, most notably playing for his country at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and signing with the Toronto Raptors in 2013.
Twitter Facebook Messenger Pinterest Email print Nigeria is not represented at the 2022 edition of the Basketball Africa League, and BAL president Amadou Gallo Fall is cognisant of the country's importance to the business of basketball on the continent. Nigerian team Rivers Hoopers played in the inaugural edition of the BAL in 2021, and again qualified for this year's showcase, before being disqualified by FIBA due to breaching government interference rules.
Former Phoenix Suns guard DJ Strawberry may have played alongside Steve Nash for just one season, but the now-Brooklyn Nets coach, with his work ethic and confidence, left a lasting impression on Strawberry as a rookie. Strawberry, who now plays for Basketball Africa League champions Zamalek, was drafted 59th overall out of Maryland by the Suns in 2007. He played on a star-studded team alongside Hall of Famer Nash, Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal, and Leandro Barbosa.
Former NBA players Ike Diogu and DJ Strawberry will need to use all their experience to help Basketball Africa League champions Zamalek in their title defence, which starts April 9 in Cairo. The Nile Conference, the second leg of this year's BAL, tips off at the Hassan Moustafa Sports Arena on Saturday, and heavy favourites Zamalek will be under pressure from a passionate home fanbase.
If you are looking for someone to build you a basketball court, a coach to teach you how to play on it, and an opponent to give you a run for your money, then Cape Town Tigers small forward Lebo Mofokeng is a solid candidate for all three roles. Having never touched a basketball until college, the 6ft4in South African has risen up the ranks to reach the Basketball Africa League, while also earning college qualifications in civil engineering and sports science.
In 1987, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo left the Democratic Republic of Congo with a USAID scholarship at Georgetown University in Washington hoping to become a doctor. Mutombo would go on to not only graduate from Georgetown, but become one of the school's all-time great basketball players. In 2022, the Basketball Hall of Famer is one of the greatest defenders in NBA history, but more important, Mutombo has remained the NBA's greatest ambassador for Africa and perhaps the world.
At the BAL's opening weekend, the NBA's deputy commissioner talks about the future of basketball in Africa, women as NBA coaches and more.
Perhaps one day Robert Pack will get his opportunity to be a head coach in the NBA or at an American college. But as he gazed from his hotel balcony in the city of Kigali, Rwanda, the former NBA player and assistant coach said all he was focused on was the opportunity the Basketball Africa League gave him to finally be a head coach.
American Jared Harrington has made the switch from Cape Town Tigers to South Sudan's Cobra Sport, announcing the move just days before the start of the Basketball Africa League [BAL].
Newly-hired AS Salé coach Liz Mills will make history when she leads the Moroccan champions at the Basketball Africa League, becoming the first woman to coach a BAL side, and the first to coach a Moroccan men's team.
This year, Cole will not be making the trip to Dakar, Cairo, or Kigali, [and neither will the Patriots], but there are a few other rappers out there who would probably not mind having a go.
Terrell Stoglin, who will again be playing for AS Sale in the Basketball Africa League, is philosophical when looking back on his basketball career so far, saying he has never been anything other than at peace with himself. Stoglin, who was the first player to score 40 points in the BAL, will return to the tournament with the Moroccan side, though is perhaps most well-known for his critical comments on rapper J. Cole's presence at the BAL last year.
The second edition of the Basketball Africa League will be missing a significant component when it tips off in March, after Nigeria's Rivers Hoopers were replaced at the 11th hour by Morocco's AS Sale. Both sides competed at the first edition, and Hoopers had qualified for this year's tournament before FIBA, the sport's governing body, deemed them ineligible and replaced them with Sale, who had reached the quarterfinals in 2021.
Former NBA veteran and Cape Town Tigers assistant coach Al Harrington has criticized the NFL for failing to emulate basketball's attitude towards hiring Black coaches.
Nigeria captain Ike Diogu played against the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal during his near-decade in the NBA, but says LeBron James stands out as the most complete opponent he ever faced.