Basketball Africa League 'can be catalyst' for African sport

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Adama Diakhite of Dakar Universite Club drives to the basket during the BAL game against AS SaleThe BAL is in its second season, and has expanded from 26 matches last year to 38 in 2022

The Basketball Africa League (BAL) can be "a catalyst" to develop the sports and entertainment industry across the continent, says one of its leading officials.

The second season of BAL resumes on Saturday, when the Nile Conference gets under way in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Six teams - defending champions Zamalek, BC Espoir Fukash, Cape Town Tigers, Cobra Sport, FAP and Petro de Luanda - will compete in a round-robin for four spots at May's play-offs in Rwanda.

"Sports on the African continent is not really a mature business yet, and we feel that the BAL can be a catalyst for that," John Manyo-Plange, BAL's head of strategy and operations, told BBC Sport Africa.

"We are a brand new league that's just starting out and the improvement between last season and this season is remarkable.

"For us to know that we're being successful, you have to get to the point where the eyeballs on the product have increased significantly. So we're definitely going to get there and it's a growth process."

Two former NBA players are among the players on the rosters for the Nile Conference, which runs until 19 April.

Power forward Ike Diogu, who was ninth pick in the 2005 NBA draft by Golden State Warriors, is set to feature for Zamalek, while former Orlando Magic guard Jamel Artis is on the roster of Cape Town Tigers.

Two 15-year-olds - Khadim Rassoul Mboup from Senegal and South Sudan's Khaman Madit Maluach - could also appear, having joined Zamalek and South Sudanese club Cobra Sport as part of the BAL Elevate programme for young talent.

Last month, REG (Rwanda Energy Group), Tunisian side US Monastir, Morocco's AS Sale and Guinean outfit SLAC (Seydou Legacy Athletique Club) booked their places in May's play-offs.

'Not just a sport, but a lifestyle'

Despite being in its relative infancy, Manyo-Pledge believes the BAL is already making an impact as it looks to establish itself across Africa.

"Organising a championship here on the African continent is very challenging in the sense that there are 54 different countries with lots of different languages, cultures, states of development for the sport of basketball, as well as infrastructure," Manyo-Plange added.

"We've been very surprised at how quickly the continent has really taken to the BAL.

"The great thing about basketball itself as well is that it's not just a sport, it's a lifestyle. And so, there's music, fashion, entertainment and all of those angles play into us being able to promote the BAL."

BAL Nile Conference (9-19 April)

  • BC Espoir Fukash - Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Cape Town Tigers - South Africa
  • Cobra Sport (Cobra Sports Club) - South Sudan
  • FAP (Forces Armees et Police Basketball) - Cameroon
  • Petro de Luanda (Clube Atletico Petroleos de Luanda) - Angola
  • Zamalek - Egypt
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