bird basketball roundup: Safaricom, NBA Africa partner up, Uganda dominates FIBA U-18, Petro de Luanda are 2024 BAL champs

Silalei Shani, bird story agency…

The NBA Africa and leading East African telecommunication company, Safaricom last month forged a multi-year partnership aimed at impacting over 10,000 Kenyan youth. The collaboration includes Jr. NBA tournaments, coaching clinics, and an elite camp for top high school talents, all designed to ignite the basketball dreams of boys and girls under 16 across the region.

“Our collaboration with Safaricom builds on the NBA’s ongoing efforts to grow basketball in Kenya and across the continent of Africa,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “We look forward to creating more opportunities for young people to engage in physical activity and learn the values inherent in sport.”

The NBA Africa-Safaricom partnership is set to ignite Kenyan basketball with four regional Jr. NBA tournaments leading to a national showdown among 16 teams. Alongside thrilling competitions, the partnership promises life skill seminars, coach training, and pathways for top athletes to join NBA Africa’s elite development programs across the continent.

The most expansive youth development programme in East Africa to date, putting Safaricom at the centre of history as Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa shared, “We look forward to engaging with NBA Africa as we explore how to transform the lives of our basketball loving youth across the country.”

Still on youth basketball development, Kampala hosted this year’s FIBA U18 Zone 5 Afrobasket qualifiers set to take place in August in South Africa.

The Afrobasket qualifiers took place over six days with participants from four nations namely, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Only the top two teams would advance to the next stage. The finals at the Lugogo Indoor Arena in Kampala saw the Ugandan teams face off against the Rwandese sides in both the boys and girls divisions.

In an exciting boys’ final, Rwanda and Uganda traded leads 9 times and tied the game five times before Uganda managed to creep away in the final minutes finishing 69-66.

The girls’ team beat Rwanda 82-52 on the back of Resty Nanangwe’s game-high 21 points, while Shiphrah Kiranda added 18 points to lead the Junior Gazelles. In the third-place games Kenya was able to achieve a third-place finish for the boys and the girls against Tanzania. The girls’ match ended 70-63, while the boys’ contest concluded 79-71.

In what has been touted the most competitive season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) so far, all roads led to Kigali, Rwanda for the BAL Playoffs and Finals. In what was a thrilling final, Petro de Luanda defeated Libya’s Al Ahly 104-97 making them the first sub-Saharan African nation to win the highly coveted award. This is Petro de Luanda’s first continental title since winning the 2015 FIBA Africa Champions Cup in their capital of Luanda.

Nicholas Faust led the new champions with 24 points while Markeith Cummings added 20 and an electric performance from Cleusio Castro, who followed with 10 points off the bench.

“Everyone on the team knew that Cleusio would be the difference-maker in this game because of his hardworking attitude,” said teammate, Lukeny Goncalves. “He was really aggressive on both ends of the floor and managed to neutralize number 41 (Jo Lual Acuil Jr.)

Jo Lual Acuil Jr. was named the 2024 BAL MVP, top scorer and defensive player of the season but his final games performance wasn’t enough to bring the BAL debutants the BAL Championship trophy.

Despite allowing 50 points in the first half, an 11-0 run in the third quarter allowed the Angolan champions to take a commanding double-digit lead which they were able to hang on to and eventually clinched the hotly contested victory. With the win, Petro de Luanda earned the right to represent Africa at the next FIBA InterContinental Cup next September in Singapore.

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