Basketball Africa League: Zamalek coach full of praise for winners

By Michelle KatamiBBC Sport Africa
Egypt's Zamalek celebrate winning the inaugural Basketball Africa League
Egypt's Zamalek celebrate winning the inaugural Basketball Africa League

Zamalek's Spanish coach Agustin Julbe Bosch was full of praise for his team's efforts to win the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) in Kigali on Sunday.

The Egyptians beat Tunisian rivals US Monastir 76-63 to win the title.

"I am really proud of my players, they deserve it. You don't know how much they deserve it, I know how much they work everyday," Julbe insisted after the victory.

"As a team we understood that trying to be better every day would lead us to win games and winning games would lead us to win championships.

"If we want to win championship we have to consistently win games. We had the same goal all of us.

"Our team showed the same character they showed throughout the tournament, the same level of concentration and even effort, even during bad times, we were able to step up all of us and make a good job especially in the second half."

The players are looking forward to taking the trophy back to Egypt including Walter Hodge, who plays internationally for the US Virgin Islands.

"We set the goal from the beginning to win the championships no matter what, I am looking forward to going back to Egypt and see how our fans in the airport, I can't wait," he said.

Zamalek had to recover from a shaky start to win the title - they were trailing 22-17 at the end of the first quarter but rallied to earn a 44-42 advantage at half-time, that lead increased in the third quarter which ended 55-51 and a dominant final quarter stretched the margin to 13 points at the final hooter.

US Monastir's coach Ben Slimen took responsibility for his side's failure to win the title.

"My deep apologies to the Tunisian basketball fans and we are sorry we tried to win it but we didn't make it. And all the responsibility is on me," he said after the final.

Earlier on Sunday Angola's Petro de Luanda clinched third place with a convincing 97-68 win over local side Patriots BBC.

Award winners

Zamalek's Walter Hodge in action during the final of the Basketball Africa League
Zamalek's Walter Hodge was named as the Basketball Africa League Hakeem Olajuwon Most Valuable Player

After the final BAL announced that it was naming three player awards after three African NBA legends - the Most Valubale Player (MVP) award is named after Nigeria-born Hakeem Olajuwon, the BAL Defensive Player of the Year is named in honour of DR Congo's Dikembe Mutombo and the BAL Sportsmanship Award will remember South Sudan's Manute Bol.

Zamalek's Hodge was the first winner of the Hakeem Olajuwon BAL MVP award after leading his team to six wins out of six as he averaged 15.5 points, 5.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

"Without my teammates, I couldn't get this. For me it was just special to win, I am winner everywhere I have been I try to win the championship and this is what I bring to the team, just trying to be unselfish and make sure my team is still good," he insited.

"Everybody stepped, they did a great job to . we trust our teammates, everybody was pushing each other. These guys always show character, I love my teammates."

Zamalek's Anas Osama Mahmoud was named the Dikembe Mutombo BAL Defensive Player of the Year after recording averages of 6.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.

The Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award went to US Monastir's Makrem Ben Romdhane for exemplifying the ideals of sportsmanship and camaraderie.

The award MVP and Defensive Player awards were decided by a panel of sportswriters, broadcasters as well as some NBA team scouts who were at the tournament, while the 12 BAL head coaches voted for the Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award.