BAL'S FIRST MVP HODGE REFLECTS ON INAUGURAL SEASON

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Almost three months after leading Zamalek to the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) title in Kigali, Walter Hodge is making waves in Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN), the top-tier in the country.

The man who scooped the first BAL MVP award has reunited with former Zamalek teammate Chinemelu Elonu, forming a key duo for Capitanes Arecibo, the current leaders in BSN’s Division A.

Just two months after propelling Zamalek to Egypt’s Super League 2021 title, which ensured the ‘Whites’ a place in the next BAL regular season, Hodge reflected on his Egypt and African basketball journey, and insisted that he would do everything again.

The 34-year-old point guard, who averaged 15.5 points and dished out 5.6 assists per game, said that “Playing in the BAL was one of the highest moments in my career.”

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Although you’re now playing for Capitanes in Puerto Rico, you had a busy and successful season with Zamalek over the past few months. What did you make of your experience in Egypt and the BAL?

The whole experience in the bubble in Kigali was amazing not only because we won the title (76-63 win over US Monastir), but because of the way the organization put things together. It was certainly one of the highest moments of my career. 

Zamalek finished 6-0, although you had a shaky start to the BAL. What challenges did face on the basketball court?

Playing the team from Cameroon [FAP] was tough because of the physical way that they played. We had some tough challenges during the BAL, but the Cameroonian team gave us some hard time even though we won (82-59). The first half was close [Zamalek led by 30-28, Hodge had just five points before took off in the second-half, finishing with a team-high 18 points.]. We’ve shown character and resilience to win that game.

Are you planning on re-signing with Zamalek when the seasons finishes in Puerto Rico?

My season in Puerto Rico finishes in November. Depending on how we do in the league, I will be available from mid-December. The League in Egypt starts in October. I talked to the team I will be available in December. If the team wants me to go back in December, I would love to go back and make a deal. It should be great [to re-join Zamalek], but at the same time I have got a couple of teams too offering stuff.

When you say that a couple of teams are reaching out, are you talking about teams in the Egypt Super League?

Yes, there are some teams in Egypt, in Angola and Europe, but at the end of the day, I will decide on the best situation for my family.

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You were named the MVP at the inaugural BAL. It was a historic moment for basketball in Africa. What did that mean to you?

It means a lot to me because I went to Egypt with a purpose as I was playing in Tunisia (US Monastir) before Zamalek. Before that, I was confused and apprehensive about playing in Egypt. So, I sought my preacher at my church and asked where I was supposed to go. She prayed for me, and said Egypt was the place for me to go and that’s how I ended up in this situation of helping the team win the Basketball Africa League and Egypt Super League titles.

[The MVP award] was great, but as long as I could give something to my team, and help us win the championship, I was happy. It was special.

Anas Mahmoud has tried out with the Toronto Raptors recently. Tell us more about him as a player and teammate.

Anas is a great player. He works really hard every single day. He knows that he has the potential to play in the NBA. I think he needs to work a bit more on his body, so that he can bang with those big guys. His timing is great, like blocking shots and passing. He can be, much, much better than he is now, especially if he improves on offensive side of the floor. He needs to be consistent. In my opinion he should go to Europe first to improve his game, then he can go to the NBA. I can see him making tit o the NBA in a few years, that’s for sure.

Could the new head coach at Zamalek reshape the way the team played over the past few months?

I don’t really know the new head coach. I have played in Europe, and each coach brings his new mentality. It could be a good thing or a bad thing. But in Egypt, its different because you have to adjust to the mentality of Egyptians.

Coach Agustin Julbe Bosch has signed for Cairo-based Al Ahly. What’s your view on his move, considering the well-known rivalry between these two clubs?

Some fans might be upset because he left for the other team, but at the end of the day he needs to provide for his family. As a professional player of coach, you want to be in the best position. Business is business. I really don’t know why there’s the rivalry between Al Ahly and Zamalek, but as a player I will always do the best to help my team win.