Road to BAL - Meet the teams in Group B
YAOUNDE (Cameroon) - The five-team Group B line-up is finally complete with the addition of the ASB Virunga, winners of the Democratic Republic of Congo qualifier tournament for the Road to BAL 2024.
The Congolese side has joined hosts Forces Armees et Police (FAP) of Cameroon, Bangui Sporting Club from the Central African Republic, Chad's Lamantines and Gabon's Espoir BBC.
Two of the five clubs - Bangui Sporting Club and Espoir BBC - have faced each other last year in Yaounde.
The race for the solo ticket on offer for Group B teams for the Second Round Elite 16 will run between October 8-12 in the Cameroonian capital city of Yaounde.
Meet the teams:
The Cameroonian champions wrote a remarkable chapter in the history of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) by becoming the first club without automatic qualification to the BAL regular season to have reached the BAL Semi-Finals.
Back in 2022, FAP finished fourth in the Nile Conference held in Cairo to advance to the Kigali Play-Offs where they stunned hosts Rwanda Energy Group (REG) before falling to Petro de Luanda in the semis.
FAP qualified automatically to the Elite 16 in 2022, but came up short, finishing 1-2 in Abidjan
However, as they attempted their third straight appearance in the BAL in 2023 things looked anything but rosy for FAP, who crashed out in the Elite 16.
When the Road to BAL action gets underway on October 8, FAP will look to correct their wrongs and return to the BAL, where they believe they belong.
FAP hired former Cameroon international player Kevin Ngwess as their head coach while keep keeping the core for the team that won the local league for the third season in a row.
The likes of Cyrille Keumoe, Cedric Tsangue Kenfack and Etienne Tametong - a trio that has featured in the BAL and has represented Cameroon at international level - are set to lead FAP in the Road to BAL once again.
BANGUI SPORTING CLUB
The Central African Republic's champions are returning to Yaounde, where they made their first international appearance last year.
Bangui Sporting Club, launched three years ago, had a promising start to the Road last year, but the Elite 16 Round proved too challenging for them.
Bangui Sporting Club, October 2022
With the signing of some household names on the continent (Kenny Gasana, Kendall Gray, Max Kouguere, Jimmy Djimrabaye and Rolly Fula), Bangui Sporting Club looked strong and talented enough to secure one of the six tickets for the BAL Season 3.
However, after finishing 2-0 in the Group Phase, Bangui Sporting struggled in the Elite 16 in Abidjan where they lost three of their five games.
In build-up to the new Road to BAL season, Bangui hired Liz Mills as their new head coach and brought back Kouguere.
The Bangui-based club has been holding a training camp in Yaounde before they open their Group B campaign.
Espoir Basket-Ball Club
It remains to be seen if the Gabonese side can do better than last year when they landed in the neighbouring Cameroon for the Road to BAL with high hopes but returned home with a 0-2.
Espoir BBC seen here during a photoshoot session last year in Yaounde
ASB Virunga and Lamantine
Both clubs are making their maiden appearance in the Road to BAL
ASB Virunga are set to become the fourth Congolese club to register for the Road to BAL after ASB Mazembe (2020), Espoir Fukash (2021) and Vita Club (2022), although the latter pulled out before the start of the tournament.
DR Congo international player Arsene Mwana Mwamba has joined ASB Virunga for the Road to BAL qualifiers
Meanwhile, Lamantine appear as the first Chadian club to register for the BAL qualifiers.
October 8: Lamantines vs FAP; Espoir BBC vs Bangui Sporting Club
October 9: FAP vs Espoir BBC; Lamantines vs Bangui Sporting Club
October 10: Bangui Sporting Club vs ASB Virunga; Espoir BBC vs Lamantines
October 11: FAP vs Espoir BBC; ASB Virunga vs Lamantines
October 12: Bangui Sporting Club vs FAP; ASB Virunga vs Espoir BBC