November 24, 2022
How Obekpa became the most intimidating defender in the Road to BAL Elite 16
Whether or not Seydou Legacy Athelique Club (SLAC) can qualify for the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Season 3, the future will tell, but one thing is for certain, Chris Obekpa has been phenomenal.
Obekpa’s SLAC on Wednesday moved a step closer to qualifying for a second straight BAL season after beating Forces Armees et Police (FAP) 85-75 in Abidjan in what was a do-or-die matchup for either side.
The win means SLAC is through to the Elite 16 Semi-Finals, while it marked the end of the road for last BAL season’s semi-finalist FAP.
The Guinean champions will take on the high-flying Bangui Sporting Club in Friday’s first Semi-Final. The winners of the semis will march on to the BAL Season 3, while the losing teams will have a second chance on Saturday by facing each other in the Third Place to determine the West Division’s last ticket for the next BAL regular season.
But before SLAC and Bangui Sporting Club take to the floor on Friday, let’s take a closer look at how Obekpa became the most intimidating defender in the Elite 16 so far.
In Wednesday’s key win over FAP, the 29-year-old reminded everyone why he’s an elite defender by establishing a new record of 7 block shots in the Elite 16 while contributing 11 points and 6 rebounds.
“The decisive moment of the game for us was the block shots of Obekpa,” SLAC Head Coach Zeljko Zecevic admitted.
Two days earlier, the Nigerian international player contributed a game-high of 6 blocks, while scoring just 4 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in a 91-69 win over Nueva Era Basketball Club from Equatorial Guinea.
Surprised by Obekpa’s ability to protect the rim? Be not.
The former G-League player with the Santa Cruz Warriors has made the rim-protection his trademark.
He once told bal.nba.com: That’s just the way I play. I love playing aggressively and protecting the rim.”
During the last BAL Sahara Conference in Dakar, Obekpa led all players in block shots with a total of 23 recorded in five games. That’s four more blocks than Ater Majok and Anas Mahmoud, who played three more games each than Obekpa, who didn’t feature in last May’s BAL playoffs in Kigali, Rwanda after accepting an offer to play for Canadian outfit Newfoundland Growlers.