16 October, 2019
22 December
4 Badra Dit Benoko Samake (POLICE)
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AS Police captain Samake: ''They'll respect us at BAL''

BAMAKO (Mali) - The razzmatazz that has anointed the staging of the maiden Basketball Africa League (BAL) is nearing fever pitch with diehards of the sport impatient for the bonanza to get into action.

Pundits have been predicting the sides they expect to dazzle in the 12-team tournament but one side that is rarely mentioned in this mix is AS Police.

The Malian outfit punched their ticket for the continental tournament after overpowering Abidjan Basket Club (ABC) of Cote d'Ivoire 71-69 in a nail-biting Third-Place Play-Off fixture of the West Conference of BAL's Qualifying Round.

- Badra Samake

The Malians' grit and resilience stunned many fans and the side's captain Badra Samake believes pundits are wrong not to mention them amongst BAL favourites.

"We showed to Africa that we can play great basketball and we can take on even the best. Anyone who is underestimating what we can do will be surprised when the tournament starts," Samake told FIBA.basketball.

"They'll respect us at BAL because we're not going there for a safari tour. We are heading to the tournament to play well and represent our basketball," he stated before adding: "We are going there to rival Africa's best teams because we want to have a good competition and perhaps win it.

"Every team has its qualities and we know ours. We intend to play our best game and do what it'll take to win the BAL."

AS Police (Mali)

Samake, who contributed 1.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in AS Police's quest for a stint in the BAL, is glad the side can resume training after a hiatus imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 21-year-old point guard and mates have returned to the courts after spending months at home.

The 1.82m (6ft) baller thinks the pandemic dented the team's gear up for the African competition but believes it reinforced the solidarity and determination within the side to impress in future events.

"We had been training for months and we were really in good form before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. We were playing pretty well and things were moving on well before this happened.

"Obviously being at home and not being able to play had its impact on us. Around that time we felt we were in better form compared to when we played in the BAL qualifiers. But it helped us psychologically because now we all want to play and dominate the local championship.

 "We are just happy we can return to the courts and if we play well we can bring some solace to the sad happenings around the country."

AS Police's drive for success has been quickly evident as they've been a thorn to the flesh of other sides, winning four of their five games since the restart of the 2019-2020 Malian Championship and topping the league.

This fine fettle Samake hopes can serve as a foundation for a brilliant participation in the BAL.

"It was really exceptional returning to the court and playing together again," Samake emphasized, mentioning "Things quickly clicked for us despite the very training sessions we had.

"We have been waiting for this but we are really excited with how we can set up. The team is in great shape.

"We have been able to demonstrate our supremacy on the local scene with the run of four victories. We lost a game but we hope it wouldn't happen again till the end of the season.

"Hopefully the team can continue playing like this which will be a very good thing going into the BAL whenever it tips off."

The resumption of action in Mali has been quite peculiar with games played behind closed doors without fans and the media.

Fixtures of the championship are broadcast live via the social media handles of Mali's basketball federation while players are subject to medical check-ups on a daily basis to prevent any spread of the coronavirus.

Samake hopes the continent's basketball chieftains can tap from this experience to stage the Basketball Africa League.

"Games are played without fans and even the teams have limited officials on the bench. There's really some strong measures that have been put in place.

"We really would love to play with the fans but health is important and it's crucial that everyone stays safe.

"When everything is in order, the fans will be able to return to the courts and cheer us but for now it's going to be like that.

"Maybe officials can look at this and perhaps pick out something that can help with organizing the BAL," Samake concluded.