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The evolution of Basketball Africa League's Elevate program

CAIRO (Egypt) - When the Basketball Africa League (BAL) announced its Elevate program last month, little was known about the players, their basketball experience and how they would fit into BAL teams' rotations.

But following the conclusion of the Sahara Conference, which took place in Dakar from March 5-15, and with the Nile Conference taking place in Cairo from April 9-19, there is a clear picture about the players and their evolution. 

According to the BAL the new program gives 12 NBA Academy Africa prospects a  possibility of joining each of the 12 BAL teams competing in the league’s 2022 season. 

SenegaleseMatar Diop (21) on the left. Ulrich Chomche, on the right, hails from Cameroon' 

With seven games into the 2022 BAL season, some players have showcased their talent, enjoying considerable playing time.

Espoir Fukash forward Emmanuel Okorafor has spent more playing time than any Elevate program player so far.

The 17-year-old Nigerian has averaged 17.2 minutes per game while contributing 5.5 points and 8 points per game.

Addressing the media in Cairo, Okorafor said: "The more I play with these guys the more confident I become. I just keep trying to improve on  some stuff that I do in the Academy."

Emmanuel Okorafor (seen on the right)

He went on saying that "The NBA Academy has gifted me a good opportunity to compete at the highest level in Africa, which is playing in the BAL. "

Okorafor said: "I talk to other Academy players here in the BAL, and everyone is excited to be here living this extraordinary experience. The Academy players in the BAL, we are like a family. Even though we are in different teams we talk every day, we share our experiences."

Khaman Maluach is playing for South Sudan champions Cobra Sports.

The 15-year-old grabbed the headlines after scoring his first BAL points in his first attempt with mid-range jumper. 

A seven-footer with a huge progress in front of him, Maluach, in three games, made the most of his 11.6 minutes per game, contributing 2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

"It was a special moment. I hope it to be the first of many more points," Maluach said of his first two points in the BAL.


He continued: "I have high expectations for myself. My goal in the BAL is to get better as a player because I know I have a lot to improve. Compared to my previous two games, I expect to  contribute even more. At my age playing at this level, it's just a dream for me. It's been a fantastic learning experience for me. I keep asking my teammates to give me tips in certain situations."

“I am not just saying that the Elevate Program is a great event just because I am part of, it's because of the way it gives young players the exposure to develop their talent that I love about this project."

Serigne Mboup has logged 6.4 points in 16.4 minutes per minute

The BAL, a progressional league launched by FIBA and the NBA, aims to provide an opportunity for the next generation of African prospects to participate in the new professional league, showcase their talent on a global stage and help their respective teams.

Frank Traore, Head of the Basketball Operations NBA Africa, has a mission of overseeing basketball from grassroots to the elite, that includes NBA Academy Africa.

Talking to FIBA.basketball, Traore shed light on the BAL Elevate program.

Frank Traore

"Our pyramid program in Africa starts with the grassroots all the way to elite. In the top of the pyramid we have a professional league: the BAL."

“We had to create pathways for these young talents from the Academy. One of them is, how can we give them a platform to showcase their talent and also grow as players. You need to play high-level basketball to grow as a player. So we found it fit to put the BAL leadership team to create that platform from these young men from the Academy to grow and learn from the more experienced BAL players. This platform gives them a chance to understand what’s like to play at the highest level."

“They are in better position than any other young person in Africa that plays basketball. These young men have the chance to compete against the best in America. They were in Las Vegas, over the past couple of months; they were in Utah, Rhode Island competing with some of the top schools of their age category. In July they are going back to the US to compete. They play against the best worldwide, from Europe, Australia.

“The hope to these young me is for these young is to make it to the NBA some day or make it to the BAL."

Cobra Sports head coach Manyang Berberi was all praises to Maluach: "He has a great future. He is not afraid of playing against anyone. He just wants to play and show that he is a competitor."

Rueben Chinyelu (Ferroviario da Beira) averaged 10.4 minutes per game

Petro de Luanda head coach Jose Neto backed the Elevate program saying: “This is a great initiative from the BAL. To give these kids an opportunity is the perfect platform for them to grow as player. I believe in the Elevate project."

Talking about Thierry Serge Darlan from the Central African Republic, who joined Petro de Luanda early this month, Neto said: "I love Darlan too much. He can play on both ends of the floor. He hasn't been with our team long, but he understands our purpose. It's an honour to share this BAL experience with such a great talent."

BAL Elevate players will not share in the prize money awarded to the top BAL teams at the end of the season to preserve their amateur status.