From not playing a single minute in the inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) to becoming one of the league’s breakthrough players the following season, that’s how Brice Bidias seized his opportunities to reinvent his game.
In the build-up to the Road to BAL Elite 16, which gets underway on Monday, November 14, and runs until Friday, 19, in Abidjan, the 24-year-old forward recalls how things can change quickly with hard work, perseverance, and self-belief.
‘If you hit the gym, and work hard, no one can stop you from doing things that you aim for,” he says in an exclusive interview with bal.nba.com
In 2021, the 6’8 forward traveled to Kigali with the Forces Armees et Police (FAP) in hope of making his BAL debut, but he saw no playing time.
That was after he became one of the stars of the Road to BAL qualifiers while playing for Gabon’s Manga Basket Club. In that FIBA-run qualifier, he averaged a jaw-dropping 15 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Bidias accepted a FAP offer to play in the BAL, but he watched all the action from the sidelines.
Fast forward to 2022, and Bidias not only became one of the reasons FAP reached the BAL Semi-Finals last May but he was also named to the All-Defensive team.
How did he do that?
“It’s the BAL effect,” he laughs. “The BAL has taught me to be better than I was yesterday,” he added. Whether FAP and Bidias can return to the BAL for a record third straight time will depend on how they perform in Abidjan where they will go up against Seydou Legacy Athletique Club (Guinea), Stade Malien (Mali), and Nueva Era Basketball Club (Equatorial Guinea).
The Cameroonian champions will need to finish in the top three places from the West Division to return to the BAL regular season.
“We are here to qualify the team for the third BAL season,” a resolute Bidias stresses. “I and other veterans on the team have the duty to instill in younger and new players the team’s mentality. That’s the only way to succeed in the Elite 16.”
There are only six tickets available for the West Division for the BAL Season 3. The other three tickets are reserved for the East Division qualifier to be held next week in Johannesburg.
“Some people may not realize how tough the Elite 16 Round is. Every team plays every game like a final,” Bidias recalls.
“It’s like the last barrier to enter the BAL, and, with that in mind, participating teams give their all. Teams sign new players, and they do things that show how eager they are to reach the BAL. You can’t afford easy mistakes if you want to succeed in the Elite 16,” said the man who lived his first Elite 16 experience with FAP last year.
Like many young players dreaming of a bright basketball future, Bidias continues to make the most of his BAL experience to reinvent his life and basketball. It wasn’t until he was named to the 2022 BAL Defensive Team that he became a regular member of the Cameroonian national team.
“The BAL completely changed my game. Before the BAL I wasn’t as experienced as I am now. Playing against those guys in the BAL, you realize how hard you have to work to be able to compete at the highest level.”
But what’s the recipe for success in the BAL and Qualifiers for Bidias?
“To succeed in the BAL, you need to put aside your bad habits. You have to control your emotions; you can’t panic, all you have to do is listen to the coaching staff, get focused, and never back down. Even at a personal level, I have become more mature. That has been my message to younger players.”
Despite contributing 11 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the last BAL season, Bidias isn’t resting on his laurels.
“I had a big role last season, but I still need things to improve upon. I needed to improve on my defensive game. I have to be more aggressive and be key in this qualification process,” he pointed out. If FAP succeeds in the Elite 16 Round, they will become the first team to successfully pass the qualifiers test and qualify for the BAL for a record third time.