STAGGERING PERFORMANCES BY BAL STAR AT AFROBASKET 2021

A total of 32 Basketball Africa League (BAL) stars have shown their talent during the FIBA AfroBasket 2021, and six of them took the trophy home.

Back in May, US Monastir came up short against Zamalek in the Final of the inaugural BAL season in Kigali, but things hanged exponentially.

BEN ROMDHANE

From a disappointing moment when US Monastir left the Kigali Arena court three months ago with a sense of injustice - after reaching the Final undefeated in five games - to a moment of glory on Sunday, Makram Ben Romdhane, Radhouane Slimane, Omar Abada, Mokhtar Ghyaza, Mourad El Mabrouk and Oussama Marnaoui who played pivotal roles in helping Tunisia claim their second straight AfroBasket on Sunday, all felt vindicated.

Ben Romdhane, who received the Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award - not only he headlined the All-AfroBasket 2021 First-Team, but he was also named the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 MVP.

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And three months after being named to the 2021 All-BAL First team, with Ben Romdhane, Walter Hodge, Wael Arakji and Anas Mahmoud, Abada was selected to the All-AfroBasket 2021 First Team alongside current or former NBA players Matt Costello (formerly San Antonio Spurs/Cote d’Ivoire), Gorgui Dieng (Atlanta Hawks/Senegal), Walter Tavares (Cleveland/Atlanta/Cape Verde) and Ben Romdhane again.

Abada averaged 12.4 points and 4.8 assist per game and Ben Romdhane contributed a team-best 12.2 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game.

While Abada won his second AfroBasket title, Ben Romdhane took home his third African Championship title, having won his first title as a 19-year-old back in 2011 in Madagascar.

DIABATE

Meanwhile, Souleyman Diabate, who played a huge role in helping Zamalek clinch the first-ever BAL trophy, ended up on the opposite side of the AfroBasket 2021 Final.

In May, Diabate finished with 14 points off the bench after burying 3-of-6 three-pointers to help Zamalek get away with the historic 76-63 victory.

Even though Diabate was equally vital in Sunday’s AfroBasket 2021 Final, after converting 4-of-5 three-pointer and lead Cote d’Ivoire with his team-high 20 points, it wasn’t meant to be as Tunisia proved too much for the Ivorians.

Named Dikembe Mutombo BAL Defensive Player of the Year, Anas Osama Mahmoud had a busy summer.

ANAS MAHMOUD

After playing for the Toronto Raptors in the Summer League, Mahmoud joined his national team in Kigali.

The 26-year-old center had a strong start to the African Championship, grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots in 14 minutes, but a collision with a Central African Republic player in Egypt’s first game forced him out.

The seven-footer not only needed medical assistance, but he required a medical operation on his right shoulder.

Without Mahmoud, Egypt struggled defensively and it came as no surprised that the Pharaohs saw their AfroBasket campaign come to an end in the Qualification Round to the Quarter-Finals after a 70-62 defeat Angola.

Former African champions Angola knew beforehand that having Carlos on the squad would mean big business.

CARLOS MORAIS

Morais, who helped Petro de Luanda establish a record for most three-pointers in the BAL where they finished third, received the Best Three-Point shooter of the AfroBasket 2021 even though his national team fell to Senegal in the Quarter-Finals.

Back in May, Nigerian outfit Rivers Hoopers had a modest campaign after failing to advance to the knockout stages of the 2021 BAL, but Hoopers shooting guard Robinson Opong made his name heard out loud at AfroBasket 2021.

OPONG

The Uganda international player was phenomenal, helping his national team reach the Quarter-Finals for the first-time in their basketball history.

It was in Uganda’s 80-68 victory against Nigeria that Opong reminded everyone why he is one of the greatest shooters in modern African basketball.

In his second AfroBasket appearance, Opong only needed 24:34 minutes to change the course of the game as he finished 6-of-10 from long range to finish with 19 points off the bench.

Opong contributed 12 points per game.

FAYE

There was no chance Senegal head coach Boniface Ndong would leave Mamadou Faye out of the Senegalese squad for the AfroBasket 2021, and he didn’t regret, that’s for sure.

Faye made his major international introduction when he led AS Douanes in scoring with 14.8 points per game in May in Kigali.

His athleticism, ball handling and shooting prowess made him a perfect for a Senegalese team that keeps chasing its first AfroBasket title since 1997.

Senegal finished on the AfroBasket 2021 podium after beating Cape Verde 86-73 in the Third-Place Game where Faye contributed 11 points on a 3-for-6 from behind the arc.

Meanwhile, Patriots BBC shooting guard Kenneth Gasana is used to the big stage, and when Rwanda needed him most, he delivered.

Rwanda may have fallen short to Guinea in the Qualification Round to the Quarter-Finals, but Gasana who averaged a team 14.3 in the BAL, came up even stronger contributing 16.3 points per game.

Unquestionably, Gasana’s best display happened in Rwanda’s second game in Group A when they stunned eleven-time African champions Angola 71-68. He paced the hosts with a game-high 18 points.

GASANA