Tigers to represent SA in Basketball Africa League

Tigers Basket Ball Club

Gugulethu Tigers are South Africa’s representatives in this year’s Basketball Africa League (BAL), which will take place in Senegal, Egypt and Rwanda, from Saturday March 5.

And, according to coach Vincent Ntunja, the SA team had to go through a vigorous challenge and qualification rounds in order to be among the top African clubs.

“It was through district, provincial and national qualification and, eventually, Southern African championship in order to ultimately reach the biggest basketball competition in Africa,” he said.

He also noted that the BAL is Africa’s premier men’s basketball league and consists of 12 teams, each qualified through their domestic competition, similar to the format of the UEFA Champions League (in football).

The league, he said, is a joint effort between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

The year 2022 marks the second season of the competition. It was formed in 2019 and the Egyptian side Zamalek are reigning champions.

“South Africa has never had a team playing at the BAL competition. So it’s an honour and privilege to be representing Gugulethu, Cape Town, Western Cape and the entire country at the African showpiece. It means our Gugulethu will not only be known for social ills, it will also be known for athletes who are continuously lifting the South African flag high,” said Ntunja.

He also noted that the team has come a long way since its establishment in 2019. It was co-founded by a few individuals including two American businesswomen, Chante Butler and Dia Martin.

“They have helped the side to immense success in the space of only two years. It was through a merger with local team Gugulethu Hustlers which gave birth to the Tigers Basketball club. Here at home the team is currently playing in the local Cape Town Basketball Association league”.

Ntunja said, as much as the side is from Gugulethu, their members come from different parts of the country and beyond.

“Our players come from all walks of life as we are trying to put up the best team that could compete with the rest of the continent. We had South African players who were playing abroad as professionals who we had to bring home in order to help the team at these prestigious stages. Each team is allowed to have only four international players from outside the country, the rest must be South African citizens.”

The team has roughly 22 professional players in the roster, the rest, about 75%, are amateurs and juniors. “Like any competitor, our players fancy their chances of reaching the play-offs stages, including going to win the cup. The mood in the camp is that of excitement and anxiety at the same time as some players have never played on this stage before, with games streamed live in many countries and over a billion viewers across the world.

“The fixtures are out already, we’ll be playing arguably the toughest games in our group. The first game is against Angolan champions Petro de Luanda, they need no introduction in African basketball as they have been a stronghold for many years. Our second game will be against Zamalek, the defending champions, so it doesn’t get any easier. It just needs one to prepare adequately and be mentally and physically ready for the task at hand. We are six teams in our group heading to Egypt. The Top four will advance to Kigali in Rwanda and, so far, we fancy our chances to move into the next round of the competition,” he added.

Ntunja also noted that the tournament will highlight the level of basketball talent the country has. “And most importantly one day we would like to host BAL games in Cape Town so our fans and basketball community can witness the highest quality in Africa.”