BAL 2023: Nigeria’s representative battle off the court issues amidst title challenge
Despite their men’s national team’s recent struggles, Nigeria produces perhaps the best basketball talent in Africa. By winning their first-ever championship and giving their local league new life.
●12th March 2023
The 2023 edition of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) began on March 11, with the Sahara Conference tipping the tournament off in Dakar, before moving on to Cairo for the Nile Conference and then Kigali for the playoffs and finals, which take place from May 21–27.
The tournament once again has 12 participating teams; six of them automatically qualified because they were the national champions, while the remaining six had to go through the BAL qualifiers.
One team to watch out for is Angola’s Petro de Luanda, who lost to Tunisia’s US Monastir in the final in 2022, as they have beefed up their squad to challenge for the title. Nigeria also has a representative after missing the previous season owing to problems with their federation (NBBF)
Bounce has the run-down of the boys from North-Central Nigeria, and what to expect from them at this year’s tournament.
Kwara Falcons who are Nigeria’s representative at this year’s Basketball Africa League, qualified as winners of the 2022 Nigerian Premier League, where they defeated Nigeria Customs in the final.
Kwara Falcons is a team based in Ilorin, Kwara and has emerged as a force in Nigerian basketball over the last four years. They finished second nationally in 2018 and third in 2019 before finally clinching their first Premier League title in 2022.
Kwara Falcons have been drafted into the Sahara Conference alongside; ABC Fighters (Ivory Coast), AS Douanes (Senegal), REG (Rwanda), Stade Malien (Mali) and US Monastir (Tunisia).
Why Nigerians should be optimistic
Despite their men’s national team’s recent struggles, Nigeria produces perhaps the best basketball talent in Africa. By winning their first-ever championship and giving their local league new life, this young squad has adapted to playing as the underdog.
The Potential Setback
The Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) has been mired in upheaval recently, and it is constantly on the verge of collapse.
As a result, they were not represented at the 2022 BAL, and even in 2021, when Rivers Hoopers sent Ben Uzoh as their marquee signing, they were unable to go past the group stage.Uzoh told ESPN that the squad’s training was insufficient for them to be competitive at the BAL.
However, It remains to be seen if Kwara Falcons have the infrastructure to assist them in order to be the first Nigerian team to reach the playoffs at the tournament.L.
Samuel Dada, their top player at the Nigerian Premier League finals, has never played in the national competition; should he participate in the BAL, his game-changing skills will be tested against more challenging competition.
In a conversation with Bounce,Kehinde Bamidele who is a Basketball journalist and enthusiast revealed that the Ilorin based side are good enough to do wonders at this edition of the Basketball Africa League, but won’t be disappointed if they fail to punch above their weights.
“Kwara Falcons are in their first BAL tourney, don’t place high expectations, no pressure they will do their best, it’s a competitive conference, they will improve game by game.
They have a great team, young and athletic players, give them a chance to prove themselves.
If they offer anything less, I won’t be disappointed”.
Falcons take on Rwanda Energy Group BBC, commonly known as REG (a Rwandan basketball club based in Kigali) in their first game of the tournament on Sunday afternoon.