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Who will be the first teams to move on to Elite 8 of Africa Basketball League?
LEEDS (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - A new chapter in the history of African basketball is set to unfold this week in Cairo.
If you are keen on the latest news of the game in Africa, then, you will find some answers from February 8-10.
It's in the Egyptian capital where four clubs from the North, East, and Southern Africa will mark the beginning of the newly-launched FIBA Africa Basketball League (ABL) (previously known as FIBA Africa Champions Cup (ACC).
Group C hosts Egyptian champions Al Ahly will go up against Rwanda's REG, Angolan champions Primeiro de Agosto and Mozambique League's runners-up Ferroviario da Beira.
What makes this an intriguing event for all four clubs involved is the fact that only the two teams that finish in the first two places of the group will advance to the FIBA ABL Elite 8.
Basically, this means that this week's FIBA ABL action will certainly define and significantly impact the rest of the season for Al Ahly, D'Agosto, REG and Ferrovario da Beira.
So, considering that Groups A, B and D will only take place over the next weeks, the inevitable question now is "Who will be the first two teams to move on to the Elite 8 of the Africa Basketball League 2019?"
After scouting and following the latest signings and investments made by these four clubs over the last few weeks, the first thing that comes to mind is that this will be a battle of titans.
Theoretically Al Ahly and D'Agosto - two former African champions - emerge as favourites not only in Group C but also to - possibly - lift the FIBA ABL 2019 trophy in next May's Final Four.
To make matters even more exciting, Al Ahly and D'Agosto will face off in Friday's Day 1 action, in a matchup that will certainly have serious implications for the remainder of the competition. And the winner of this clash will enhance their chances to win the group.
Recent history shows that playing in front of their home fans has contributed to Al Ahly's first ACC title in 2016.
Al Ahly's roster includes a number of Egyptian internationals - namely Ibrahim El Gammal, Ramy Gunady and Ahmed Mohamed.
Winners of the last three editions of the Egyptian Basketball Super League, Al Ahly signed Americans Reggie Holmes - a shooting guard with a vast experience in European basketball - and Todd O'Brien - a 29-year-old seven-footer center.
صفقاتنا لا تحتاج لكفيل لاتمامها 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/EuNHjb3Jrr— العاب صالات الاهلي (@AhlyHall) January 28, 2019
The Angolans, however, will be relying on an experienced group of players - including six Angolan internationals and 2015 ACC MVP Emmanuel Quezada. D'Agosto is coached by former Olympian Paulo Macedo and two-time FIBA AfroBasket MVP Miguel Lutonda.
After beating local rivals Patriots in Rwanda's Final of the National Days Heroes tournament over the weekend, REG couldn't be more confident to make their FIBA ABL entrance in style.
When I recently spoke to Al Ahly's Tarek El Ghannam, D'Agosto's Macedo and Ferroviario da Beira power forward Helton Ubisse - all had one thing in common to say :"If you want to win and avoid surprises in this tournament, don't underestimate your opponent."
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