Rwanda Energy Group (REG) became the first team to qualify for the 2023 Basketball Africa League (BAL), but how did they do it?
The Rwandan champions are 3-0 with two games to play in the Sahara Conference.
The other team with three games, as of Thursday, March 17, is Kwara Falcons (0-3).
REG have fought nail and tooth to be in the privileged position they are now.
And, after beating the Falcons (64-48), Abidjan Basket Club (80-73) and AS Douanes (69-55), REG will face Stade Malien and US Monastir to close their BAL regular season campaign.
REG’s ability to fight back and perseverance have been crucial.
At times they had their backs against the wall, but they managed to turn things around.
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SHOW?
After three consecutive wins in 2023 Sahara Conference, numbers show that REG:
Limited their opponents to 58.6 points while scoring 71 points per game.
Averaged 5 block shots per game.
Improved their 3-pt shooting gradually. From Game 1 to 3, REG scored 4, 9 and 11 three-pointers.
Recorded 8.3 steals per game.
Out-rebounded opponents 140-137.
REG averaged 21 assists per game.
When REG trailed by 6 (against Kwara), they turned it around leading by as many as 23.
When REG trailed by 11 (against ABC), they turned it around leading by as many as 16.
REG trailed by 2 against AS Douanes, but embarked on a 24-point lead at some point.
WHO ARE REG’s KEY PLAYERS
The Rwanda champions like to advocate team effort for their success, but five players have been key-factors:
Adonis Filer averages 13.3 points, 5.7 assists in 33.1 minutes per game.
Dieudonne Ndiziye averages 10 points in 20.1 minutes per game.
Jean Jacques Wilson contributes 8.3 points and 7 rebounds per game.
Cleveland Thomas Jr averages a team-high of 34.1 minutes per game, contributing 13.3 points and 6.3 assists per game.
Pitchou Manga averages 7.3 points, 8 rebounds per game n 18.7 minutes per game.
Ulrich Chomche plays 19.7 rebounds per game while scoring 5.3 points, 5.3 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game.
Delwan Graham averages 9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 30.8 minutes per game.
WHAT HAS REG LEARNED FROM THE PAST
Dakar starts to become an emblematic place for REG in the BAL.
A year ago REG lost to Dakar Universite Club (DUC), but went on to upset US Monastir before closing their 2022 Sahara Conference with a 4-1 mark in the Senegalese capital.
Despite winning the Sahara Conference, REG were eliminated in the first round of the 2022 BAL playoffs against Cameroon’s FAP.
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT REG’S 3-0 MARK AND QUALIFICATION TO THE PLAYOFFS
REG forward Cleveland Thomas Jr took time to speak to the bal.nba.com. Below are excerpts of his interview:
“The main thing for us [to win the first three games] was our defense. We really focused on our defense. Executing it that way, I feel like it helped us to a good start.”
“Winning the first game gave us confidence.”
“The goal is to finish 5-0. But in order to be 5-0 we got to be 4-0. Our focus now is on the next game. It’s definitely one of our goals, get the No. 1 seed. It gives us a better chance to make it to the Championship.”
“The toughest game for us was the game against the ABC Fighters because we were trailing. All other games before we had a lead going to halftime, but this game with ABC we were trailing. It shows our character and our ability to come back, it was huge for us.”
“At this moment I describe this team as loaded. We have so many weapons. Any night it could be anybody. That’s what I like about this team.”
REG take on Stade Malien on Saturday, March 18.