Liz Mills

BAL break an opportunity for teams to re-strategise

Mills hopes BAL dream will resume

SINCE the completion of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Qualifiers in December 2019, when I assisted Rwandan club, Patriots BBC to the BAL East Division qualification title, there has been an immense sense of excitement from players, coaches, management and fans for the first season of the BAL.

After leaving Patriots, I had the opportunity to move to a power house club* that had automatically qualified for the first season of the BAL season. I was eagerly awaiting our first games in Dakar, Senegal when on March 4 2020, but the league was suspended due to COVID-19. Having spent the last couple of weeks preparing film, scouting reports, analytics & training sessions, I, along with all the teams and fans, was extremely disappointed that the league would not go ahead, especially as my team was considered one of the favourites to win the first season of the league. However, the decision made by the BAL executive team, proved to be the right decision, keeping the safety of the teams and fans as top priorities.

Liz Mills during her time at Patriots: Pictures: FIBA and Frank Ogallo

Through my coaching career in Africa, I’ve been able to build a network of coaches, players and managers, which means I’m in a unique position to be able to speak to players and/or coaches in all the teams that would have been competing in the 2020 BAL. Although, initially everyone was disappointed that the league was unable to start in March, there was and continues to be a sense of hope that the league will be able to run later this year. We are anxiously waiting to hear any updates from the BAL executive team. If they are unable to run the first addition of the league, I’d love to see them at least host a tournament for the 2020 BAL teams.

A two-week tournament, similar to FIBA AfroBasket, where one country hosts, and allows the 12 teams the opportunity to compete for the 2020 title. This would facilitate that the 2021 qualifications go on as planned for that season.

On a more positive note, with the league being postponed, it has given teams more time to prepare, enabling them to re-evaluate and re-strategise for the upcoming season. Team managers now have more time to bring on sponsors and scout players, while coaches can continue to build on their strategies and develop their players. The additional time also gives players the opportunity to work on their skills at home and evaluate their own performance by watching film. Whilst there is no date set for the BAL 2020 season, it is important for players to remember that they still have an opportunity to play for their national team for the upcoming 2021 FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers in November 2020 and February 2021. Staying fit and healthy should be a priority during COVID-19.

Although currently back home in Sydney, Australia, I look forward to returning to Africa when basketball resumes later this year. During COVID-19, I hope everyone stays at home, stays safe and remain healthy.

*Confidential due to ongoing contract re-negotiations.

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