Harare – Three clubs from Southern Africa are part of the inaugural NBA Basketball Africa League (BAL), which tips off May 16 in Kigali, Rwanda.
The 12-team tournament was initially scheduled to start in Senegal last year but it was cancelled at the last minute over fears around the spread of COVID-19.
BAL has forged ties with the NBA and the tournament is expected to mark a new beginning in African basketball.
Angola’s Petro de Luanda, Gendarmerie Nationale of Madagascar and Mozambique’s Ferroviàrio de Maputo are the three teams from Southern Africa that will be chasing gold in Kigali.
The Southern Africa Basketball Association (SaBA), whose league is set for its official launch next month, has thrown its weight behind the three.
In a statement, SaBA chairman Sunny Mbofana said, “We are so delighted the game is finally at the highest level in our mother Africa after this COVID-19 manace; it’s happening again and as Southern Africa Basketball Association we rally behind all the teams coming from the region.
“Qualification to BAL competitions in Rwanda by the three teams from the Southern region is in itself a big statement and It’s time we show the world out there we have the talent and all it takes to compete at the highest level.”
Participants have been grouped into three pools of four each, with the top eight teams progressing to the playoff eliminators. The final is slated for May 30.
The Southern African trio have been separated from each other, with Madagascar’s Gerndamerie Nationale in Group A along with Rivers Hoopers (Nigeria), hosts Patriots of Rwanda and US Monastir (Tunisia). Mozambique’s Ferreviero de Maputo are in Group C with Egypt’s Zamalek, AS Dounes of Senegal and GS Petroliers of Algeria; while Petro de Luanda face off against FAP (Cameroon), AS Sale (Morocco) and AS Police (Mali).
Like the teams from Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, Petro Luanda qualified automatically for the inaugural BAL season. The other six teams qualified through BAL competitions in 2019.
Meanwhile, United States rap musician J Cole will feature in the BAL as part of a promotional effort to raise the league’s profile.
According to NBA reporter Shams Charania, J Cole signed to play for three to six games with the Patriots of Rwanda.