May 30 (Reuters) – Nigerian Chinemelu Elonu scored 11 points and claimed 12 rebounds as Egyptian side Zamalek won the inaugural edition of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), defeating Tunisian outfit Union Sportive Monastir 76-63 in the final in Kigali on Sunday.
The Cairo side, who were unbeaten in their six games, pulled away in the final quarter to secure the trophy against the top-ranked Tunisians, outscoring their opponents 21-12.
Zamalek guard Walter Hodge, who previously played for the University of Florida, was named the competition’s Most Valuable Player.
The 12-team BAL is organised by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and is their first foray outside North America.
It was initially to be played as a series of events across the African continent in 2020 but due to travel restrictions because of COVID-19 was instead staged as a two-week event in the Rwandan capital.
The NBA announced this week that they have created a new entity named NBA Africa in partnership with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), which will co-ordinate its operations on the continent, including future BAL tournaments.
“(This) is the result of many years of investment and on-the-ground work to grow the game of basketball in Africa and a recognition of the enormous opportunities ahead for the NBA on the continent,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters.
“We believe that basketball can become a top sport across Africa over the next decade.”
There are currently 55 players in the NBA who were either born in Africa or have at least one parent raised on the continent. (Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Clare Fallon)
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