NBA-affiliated Basketball Africa League to tip off with Nigeria's Rivers Hoopers taking on hosts Patriots

The Basketball Africa League's opening game will see Nigeria's Rivers Hoopers take on home side the Patriots, as the long-awaited NBA-affiliated tournament tips off in Kigali, Rwanda, on May 16.

The BAL, which will be broadcast in its entirety on ESPN in Africa (DStv 218), will see 12 teams compete in three groups of four, then a three-round knock out phase, culminating in the Finals on May 30.

Champions from the national leagues in Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia earned their participation in the inaugural season. The remaining six teams, which come from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda, secured their participation through BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by the FIBA Regional Office Africa across the continent in late 2019.

The first week of the tournament will see three games being played per day, starting at 2pm local time (8amET), with teams like Zamalek (Egypt), AS Douanes (Senegal), and US Monastir (Tunisia) set to be sides to watch in the group stage.

The Hoopers, whose coach told ESPN that the coronavirus-induced delay of over a year was a 'blessing in disguise', have one of the more high-profile rosters in the tournament, featuring the likes of former NBA guard Ben Uzoh and G-League veteran Taren Sullivan.

Hosts the Patriots, meanwhile, will be competing with local pride at stake, because while the tournament will be played behind closed doors inside a 'bubble', interest in Rwanda is high.

Skipper Aristide Mugabe told Rwandan publication The New Times: "We always set the target high, and we want to win the title. But it starts with getting some wins and qualifying for the quarter-finals, and then we can go on from there.

"The message (for fellow players) is simple: let's go out there to compete and show the world that Africa has got talent".

The teams have a foreign player quota of four players, with only two allowed to be from outside Africa, so the action will truly showcase the talent the continent has to offer.

Group stage schedule

May 16 - Rivers Hoopers v Patriots (4pm)

May 17 - GSP v AS Douanes (2pm), Maputo v Zamalek (5:30pm), GNBC v US Monastir (9pm)

May 18 - AS Police v Petro de Luanda (5:30pm), FAP v AS Sale (9pm)

May 19 - Patriots v GNBC (2pm), AS Douanes v Maputo (5:30pm), GSP v Zamalek (9pm)

May 20 - Petro de Luanda v FAP (2pm), Rivers Hoopers v US Monastir (5:30pm), AS Police v AS Sale (9pm)

May 22 - Maputo v GSP (2pm), Zamalek v AS Douanes (5:30pm), US Monastir v Patriots (9pm)

May 23 - GNBC v Rivers Hoopers (2pm), FAP v AS Police (5:30pm), AS Salé v Petro de Luanda (9pm)