Top level scouts eye Africa’s U-18 basketball talent

Brave Hearts official Toto Njovu raises the 1st place trophy at this year's BIBC Photo: Courtesy Toto Njovu

Scouts from the NBA and other top-level leagues are keeping a careful eye on emerging talent at the tournament that yielded Serge Ibaka and Khalifa Diop. Another talent showcase, this time in Malawi, aims to raise regional interest in the sport.

by Silalei Shani, bird story agency

The start of the 2022 FIBA U18 African Championship began about a week ago in Antananarivo, Madagascar with Africa’s youth reminding the world why the continent really is the new frontier for top talent. August 8 marked the end of the group phase and the men now into the knock-out phase with the finals being played on August 14.

Benin, Mali, Guinea, Algeria, Egypt, Angola, Senegal and hosts Madagascar are all in the race to represent Africa at the FIBA U-19 World Cup in Hungary. Two tickets are up for grabs. While Senegal enters the knockout phase undefeated, it is Mali who are strong favorites to win despite having lost the last two editions of the tournament and losing to Angola in the group phase. Hosts Madagascar has also proven themselves a strong contender, led by France-based, Mathias M’madi who has averaged 21.3 points per game. A clutch player who’s not afraid of the moment, he has turned many a scout’s head during this year’s edition of the tournament – including Toronto Raptors Scout, Abel Nson,

“I think he is a top African talent at the guard. A player comparison is Memphis Grizzlie’s Ja Morant with a better shot and less of a bounce. Like Ja, both are average defenders but he is very unselfish and yet a prolific scorer. He is my top point guard of the whole event, especially after putting up 18 points against a seasoned team like Senegal,” Nson said.

The Championships, which attracts top-level scouts from leagues all over the world, has been a starting point for top international talent, including former African U-18 stars Serge Ibaka and more recently, Khalifa Diop – just two of the big players to come out of the tournament,

South of Antanarivo in the city of Antsirabe, the FIBA U18 African Women’s Championship has also been underway with Egypt, Algeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Angola, Guinea, Mali and hosts Madagascar participating.

Defending champions Egypt are looking to defend their title but Mali’s momentum through the group stage makes them the favourites in this year’s tournament, led by Maimouna Haidara. The Spain-based 18-year-old is a double-double machine and has contributed heavily to Mali’s titles in the U-18 age group.

Another powerful player is Egypt’s Jana Elalfy. The 6’4 powerhouse is proving almost impossible to stop in the front court and has also posted double-doubles in almost all her group stage games. All games are streamed live on the FIBA YouTube Channel.

Down in southern Africa, Malawi continues to take big strides toward reviving the state of basketball in the nation. Earlier in the year, Malawi’s basketball federation hosted Kenya’s Men and Women’s Equity teams for a week-long tournament. This month the Braveheart’s Basketball Club hosted the annual event “BIBC” which brings together teams from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with the aim of showcasing talent and skills and promoting basketball in Malawi. The event strengthens ties with international basketball bodies, creating a platform where local teams can learn from and expose players to greater talent.

Peter Gomani, Secretary General of the Basketball Association of Malawi (BASMAL), commended the sponsors for organizing the tournament and asked more companies to help sponsor the development of the game

“We will continue to support the BIBC…there are many areas the country can benefit from such as capacity building,” Gomani said.

This year’s edition brought nine men’s teams and four women’s teams together. Zambia’s Matero Warriors won gold, taking home bragging rights and 2,000 US dollars in prize money.

bird story agency