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March 15, 2023

Who are the five youngsters taking the Sahara Conference by storm?

It’s only taken a few games in the Sahara Conference for a group of top prospects to impact the Basketball Africa League’s (BAL) Sahara Conference.

What do they all have in common? They are 21 or younger, impressively talented and they keep capitalizing on every opportunity that presents in front of them.

Aliou Diarra, Rueben Chinyelu, Ulrich Chomche, Moudou Fall Thiam and Khaman Maluach have set themselves apart and start to take the Sahara Conference by a storm.

TEAM: Stade Malien
DOB: December 31, 2001
Height: 6’9
Position: Center
Nationality: Malian

This 6’9 center has been terrorizing opponents on both ends of the floor.

In two Sahara Conference games, Diarra rose to the occasion, registering two double-doubles while helping Stade Malien to improve to 1-1.

Assertive and disciplined in the paint, Diarra has been fundamental for the Malian champions, averaging 18.5 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes per game.

TEAM: Kwara Falcons
DOB: May 25, 2005
Height: 6’3
Position: Guard
Nationality: Senegalese

Fall Thiam replaced his NBA Academy Africa teammate Khadim Mboupe in the Falcons’ rotation. He made his BAL debut during the Falcons’ 78-74 loss to Stade Malien.

But despite the loss, Thiam made his name heard loud across the Dakar Arna.

When Thiam came off the bench, he knew that opportunities like that don’t come up often and he seized it with both hands.

Thiam made an immediate impact.

In his first intervention of the game, the left-handed guard finished a fast-break with his left hand.

The 17-year-old contributed defensively, made 4 of his 8 shots to finish with 11 points in 21 minutes.

TEAM: Stade Malien
DOB: September 30, 2003
Height: 6’11
Position: Center
Nationality: Nigerian

game 3

Chinyelu is in his second BAL season after playing for Ferroviario da Beira last year.

The 2’11 center played 11:59 minutes against US Monastir, finishing with just 2 points and 2 rebounds.

However, when John Wilkins picked up two straight fouls for his 4th overall in less than a minute into the third quarter against Abidjan Basket Club on Tuesday, Chinyelu seized the opportunity to enter his name to the scoresheet.

Chinyelu finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 19:10 minutes.

Talking to the, he said: “I used the opportunity to show what I can do and how I can help the team.

“My game has jumped from where it was last year when I played in the BAL [for Ferroviario da Beira]. My game just keeps growing every day. I have been able to read the game better and improving my shooting.”

TEAM: Rwanda Energy Group
DOB: December 30, 2005
Height: 6’11
Position: Center
Nationality: Cameroonian

When the Cameroon came on for Pitchou Manga in REG’s 80-73 win he was so impactful that he ended up with more playing time than Manga.

For most of the 19:14 minutes that Chomche spent on the floor, he grabbed 8 rebounds, blocked 1 shot, and made 3 of his 7 field-goal attempts to finish with 6 points.

“I am just grateful [for the opportunity] to be part of the team. This is a good opportunity to showcase my talent. I am very excited to be with REG,” Chomche said.

“I still have a lot to learn. And to be able to play in the BAL is a good chance to improve my game,” the 17-year-old said.

TEAM: AS Douanes
DOB: September 14, 2006
Height: 7’1
Position: Center
Nationality: South Sudanese

Saly, Senegal - March 8: Khaman Madit Maluach #4 of Association Sportive des Douanes poses for a picture during BAL Media Day on March 8, 2023 at the Sahara Conference in Saly, Senegal.

Maluach – the tallest player in the Sahara Conference – has only played one game (a 76-70 loss to ABC) as we write, but, just like his impressive physique, the 16-year-old made his presence felt.

Coming off the bench, Maluach had a 3-for-4 shooting to finish 7 points, while dominating the paint with a game-high of 9 rebounds in 20:24 minutes.

Lessons taken away from the early Sahara Conference games show that these top prospects waste no time in seizing opportunities.

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