Road to BAL: Get to know the teams drawn in Group D
GABORONE (Botswana) - Group D of the 2023 Road to BAL will see some familiar and new clubs do battle to qualify for the Elite 16 tournament starting in November.
Botswana champions, Dolphins Basketball Club will host Brave Hearts (Malawi), UNAM Wolves (Namibia), Munali Suns (Zambia) and JBC (Zimbabwe) from 17-22 October in Gaborone.
FIBA.Basketball offers some insights into how the five clubs will shape up ahead of the Group D qualifying leg of the tournament.
Dolphins Basketball Club
The Gaborone-based outfit last appeared in the 2019 BAL qualifiers in South Africa and won one game. Their fans will hope they can add a few more wins this time around.
Dolphins finished 1-4 in the first round of the Road to BAL held in October 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Dolphins will have some continuity in their lineup with Trynos Moyo, who led the team four years ago, still at the helm. Veteran players center Bushe Ramabu and shooting guard Kesaobaka Ndawanyana, who played in the 2019 qualifiers, are also part of the team.
With experience in their ranks and home support to count on, the Dolphins could spring a surprise.
Brave Hearts Basketball Club
The Malawian club are making a second appearance in the preliminary phase of the qualifiers. After failing to win a game at a similar stage in 2021 in Tanzania, Brave Hearts will look for redemption in Gaborone.
Breave Hearts finished 0-2 in the Road to BAL in October 2021
Coach Griffin Kalua will lead the team again in Botswana. He will lean on the experience of Henry Chizah, Madalitso Kadiwa and Ian Limbe, who were part of the 2021 team.
Brave Hearts are trying to secure international talent to ensure a competitive roster when the qualifiers begin.
The Zambian club will make their debut at this level of competition. Nine-year-old Suns clinched their first Zambian Basketball League title after beating the experienced Matero Magic.
Harrison Banda is their notable player. The Zambian international played in the BAL qualifiers for UNZA Pacers (2019) and Matero Magic (2021).
Their international players will include Josh Thompson and Alfred Anderson.
As they enter new territory, fans will wait to see if the Suns can emulate and surpass Magic and UNZA by making it to the BAL.
Six-time Basketball Union of Zimbabwe champions JBC are making a first foray into the BAL qualifiers.
The Zimbabwean club have desire to go far in these qualifiers. Shooting guard Saul Phiri, who played for Matero Magic in last year's Elite 16, headlines the signings. Tafadzwa Tela, who played in the US, and Wesley Alcegaire will add depth to the backcourt.
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The addition of Senegalese big man Fallou Ndoye, who turned out Matero last year's Elite 16 qualifiers, will provide solid rebounding and shot-blocking for JBC.
The Wolves are the third team making a first appearance in this group. They are also the second club from Namibia - since Lions Basketball Club in 2019 - to qualify for this phase of the BAL.
Lions Basketball Club was the first Namibian club to participate in the Road to BAL
They will not be short of experience at this level. Six players in the Wolves squad were part of the Lions Basketball club that competed in the 2019 BAL preliminary qualifiers in South Africa.
Allan Nghixulifwa, Joe Banda, Michael Mukumbutaa,
Mabeth Kazerua, Chonhi Costa and Yaurovandu Ndjavera will bring much-needed experience to the Wolves squad. They have a young coach in 29-year-old Titus Mwhafa, who will definitely welcome some wiseheads in the team.