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September 1, 2022

BAL stars lift up national teams in Window 4 of the World Cup Qualifiers

Window 4 of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers (WCQ) came to a close on Tuesday, August 30, and a number of Basketball Africa League (BAL) - current and former players - left their mark in the African and Asian tournaments.

A total of 29 players - who have featured in the first and second season of the BAL - played important roles in helping their national teams throughout the latest WCQ games played in Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire) and Monastir (Tunisia).

Souleyman Diabate – the only player that has won two BAL titles so far – was fundamental for Cote d’Ivoire’s successful W4 of the WCQ.

After sitting out Window 3 of the WCQ in July, the US Monastir point guard returned in August to help the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire become the first African team to qualify for next year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines. Diabate averaged 10 points, 6 assists, and 26 minutes in three games in W4.

Joining Diabate bounding to the 32-nation World Cup next year is Wael Arakji, who played a pivotal role in helping Lebanon qualify for their first World Cup in more than a decade.

Arakji starred for runners-up US Monastir in Season 1 of the BAL. In the defining 95-63 win over India, Arakji’s had a 4-4 from downtown to finish with 15 points. The remaining four tickets available for African nations for the 2023 World Cup won’t be defined until the fifth and final Window of the WCQ in February 2023.

However, so far a number of teams that count on BAL players emerge in strong positions to qualify for the first multi-country FIBA Basketball World Cup. South Sudan of Cobra Sports’ guard Padiet Wang is one win away from making history.

Wang may have averaged just 7.5 minutes in the three W4 games, but every time Head Coach Royal Ivey called him off the bench he offered what BAL fans got used to seeing: His quickness and ability to finish fast-breaks with spectacular dunks.

South Sudan (8-1) are currently top of Group F ahead of Egypt (7-2) and Senegal (6-3).

Petro de Luanda quartet’s Leonel Paulo, Childe Dundão, Gerson Domingos and Gerson Gonçalves made their presence felt in Abidjan while helping to an impressive 3-0 after wins over Uganda, Cape Verde, and Nigeria. Angola ranks second in Group with a 5-2 edge.

Dundão, who was named in the 2022 BAL-All Defensive Team, averaged 10 points in the must-win games against direct rivals Cape Verde and Nigeria. Goncalves, who started and came off the bench throughout the three games in Abidjan, was an X factor for Angola (5-2) on both ends of the floor while contributing 11.3 points per game.

BAL Defensive Player of the Year in Season One Anas Mahmoud Ossama was a joy to watch in Monastir, where he helped Egypt improve to an 8-1 record and close in the WC qualification.

The former Zamalek player not only displayed his specialty of protecting the rim and dominating the painted area but he was also seen numerous times starting Egypt plays like a natural point guard. It was really impressive for a seven-footer player. Another Zamalek player in Egypt’s rotation was team captain Omar Hussein who played a role coming off the bench.

Other BAL players that made their presence felt in W4 of the WCQ were Joel Almeida (FAP/Cape Verde), Pitchou Manga (REG/DR Congo), Myck Kabongo (Cape Town Tigers/DR Congo), Rolly Fula (Espoir Fukash/DR Congo). US Monastir was represented in the Tunisia national team by Oussama Marnaoui, Omar Abada, Mourad El Mabrouk, Makthar Ghayaza, Makram Ben Romdhane, and Firas Lahiani.

Seydou Athletic Club (SLAC) had Head Coach Zeljko Zecevic, guard Ibrahim Kalil Fofana, and top prospect Mohamed Keita, who has since joined US College Saint John University). Former Rivers Hoopers shooting guard Robinson Opong lined up for Uganda; Senegal counted on Bamba Diallo and Babacar Sane(DUC) and AS Douanes guard Mo Faye. FAP’s duo Brice Bidias and Cyrille Keumone played for Cameroon; NBA Academy and Elevate player Rueben Chinyelu and former SLAC Chris Obekpa played for Nigeria.

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