Basketball Africa League: Zamalek's Edgar Sosa says organisation 'is second to none'

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Zamalek player Edgar Sosa shootsZamalek's Dominican-American player Edgar Sosa was named MVP for the game against Cameroon's FAP in the Nile Conference

Ahead of the climax of the second season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Zamalek's Edgar Sosa has said the organisation of the competition is as good as he has experienced.

After playing college basketball in the United States, the Dominican-American's 12-year career has seen him appear in a number of European leagues as well as in Iran, Lebanon and New Zealand.

Last month the 30-year-old helped defending champions Zamalek qualify for the BAL play-offs, which begin on Saturday in Rwanda, with an unbeaten record in the Nile Conference.

In the last eight the Egyptian club will face Guinea's Seydou Legacy Athletique Club (SLAC), who finished fourth in the Sahara Conference in Senegal in March.

The format of this year's finals in Kigali is a straight knockout system, so losing quarter-finals will exit the tournament, and the winners will be crowned on 28 May.

Sosa has no regrets on taking the chance of leaving Europe to play in Egypt and take part in the NBA-backed BAL.

"[The BAL] is nothing like I've experienced in my professional career - everything is done top of the line," the point guard told BBC Sport Africa.

"From the gear you get to the arenas you're playing in, it really feels like you're playing in the NBA. You have the best of everything, which is something I'm thankful I'm able to experience."

Yet he admits the standard in the local Egyptian league still has some way to go to match other countries he has played in.

"If we're talking about just the Egyptian league, talent-wise it wouldn't compare," Sosa added.

"There's only one import (overseas player) per team - whereas the other leagues, you have three, four or even five imports per team.

"That increases your chances of having more talent. But as far as the organization, it's a great one and they really take good care of you."

While the local league may only allow one overseas player per team, those involved in the BAL can have four, two of which must be African.

Sosa 'would recommend' BAL

Zamalek in action against DR Congo's Espoir Fukash in the BAL Nile ConferenceZamalek beat DR Congo's Espoir Fukash 101-92 in the BAL Nile Conference

Sosa, who is the fifth leading scorer in this season's BAL with 19.5 points per game, is open to a return to Zamalek for the next year's edition of the BAL, and would urge other overseas players to join up given the chance.

"I would love to (come back)," he said.

"I'm not thinking too far ahead - just trying to soak in the fact I'm here now for season two. But I've been so impressed with the organization and the way the league is ran I will definitely not turn that opportunity down again.

"I would definitely recommend it. It's something you cannot pass up on because of the organization and how great it is around the league.

"It gives you a chance to see a different part of the world. I think we all learn more, through traveling to meeting people and experiencing different cultures. I think that's where I've gotten most of my knowledge throughout my years."

He believes Zamalek can retain the BAL title, which would mean they would have a record of 14 wins out of 14 outings across two seasons.

"It's going to take for a lot of things to go our way for us to stay together as a unit, as a club and as a team," he explained.

"I think we definitely have the talent, the mentality and the determination to make that happen."

Preparing for the finals

Will VoigtAmerican Will Voigt is in charge of Zamalek at the BAL

Although his side go into the quarter-finals unbeaten and as holders, Sosa insists their American coach Will Voigt has taken the pressure off the players.

"Thanks to our coach there is not any pressure that we feel because he's helped us dial in on taking it one game at a time," Sosa explained.

"We don't think about hopefully being back-to-back champions.

"We take each opponent for who they are, and their strengths and weaknesses, and try to execute each game. I think that's what helps us cope with everything."

With the finals being a one-off knockout format, Sosa admits they are changing their mental approach to the game.

"If you play a series of best of three, five or seven, more times than not the better team will end up winning," he added.

"When you're just playing one game, you literally have to be better for 40 minutes of basketball and sometimes you can have a day and beat a team that people really don't expect you to beat."

SLAC, their opponents on Sunday, qualified with two wins from five in the Sahara Conference but Sosa points out the Guinean club are not the only team they have been studying.

"We've been preparing for not only our first game, but for the teams we might play in the future," he said.

"The main focus is on SLAC. We have been watching their personnel, the things they're good at and things that maybe we can take advantage of.

"But then game two, if you're lucky enough to advance, you have a short timespan to get ready. You're not gonna know all the ins and outs of the the next team you're playing.

"But also the team won't know about the way you play. It makes it competitive - and may the best team win."

BAL 2022 play-off schedule

Quarter-finals:

  1. REG (Rwanda) v FAP (Cameroon) - Saturday, 1230 GMT.
  2. AS Sale (Morocco) v Petro Atletico (Angola) - Saturday, 1600 GMT.
  3. Zamalek (Egypt) v SLAC (Guinea) - Sunday, 1230 GMT.
  4. Cape Town Tigers (South Africa) v US Monastir (Tunisia) - Sunday, 1600 GMT.

Semi-finals:

  • Winner 1v Winner 2 - Wednesday, 25 May (1600 GMT).
  • Winner 3 v Winner 4 - Wednesday, 25 May (1930 GMT).

Third-place play-off: Friday, 27 May (1600 GMT).

Final: Saturday, 28 May (1600 GMT).

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