Liz Mills

Mills spells out ABC’s BAL aspirations

WHEN season three of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) tips off in Dakar, Senegal, on Saturday, ABC Fighters coach Liz Mills will have a singular goal in mind. That is to restore Cote d’Ivoire’s most successful club’s image on the continent.

In the early 2000s, ABC enjoyed a period of success in the defunct FIBA Africa Clubs Champions Cup. Their crowning moment was becoming champions of the tournament in 2005, and on either side of their trophy win, they captured silver (2004) and bronze (2007). Since then ABC have been unable to replicate or come near those feats in continental basketball.

Liz Mills
Liz Mills believes Fighters will surprise many at the BAL. Picture: Supplied

While Mills, who spoke to The Big Tip Off on Thursday, acknowledged the club’s past glory days at the continental level, she knows her team can write a new chapter for themselves in their debut season at the BAL.

“They have always been a competitive team, but it’s been a while since they have been back at this level. I want to put this team back on the continental map. This club has a long history. I think they deserve to be spoken about in a more revered manner,” said Australia-born Mills.

Initially, Mills took a coy tone about the ambition of the 20-time Ivorian league champions ahead of the BAL tournament.

“We are flying under the radar. People are not saying we are favourites or a team to look out for. I think that is to our advantage. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people,” said Mills, who made her BAL debut as coach of AS Sale last year.

But the question is, are the Fighters a closed book and do they have the element of surprise on their side?

The question emanates from the fact that the Abidjan based-club won the Road To BAL Division West qualifiers last year, which culminated in qualification to the BAL. Mills’ milestones in the African game have also not gone unnoticed, so she and ABC would surely be hard to miss.

Mills, who has been impressed by the ABC players, says that things have changed in the team since the Road To BAL qualifiers, and she may have a trick or two up her sleeve at the tournament.

“It’s a different team, and we play differently compared to how the team played last year in the qualifiers. Credit must go to the local players. In the last six weeks they have grasped many new concepts and systems. They have exceeded my expectations,” said Mills, who took over the coaching reins after ABC qualified for the BAL. “People can go back and watch films of previous games, but that is not what we will show on the court. What I can say is, we will be an exciting team to watch.”


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With players like veteran leader Stéphane Konaté, Nigerian big man Chris Obekpa, shooting guard Abdoulaye Harouna  (Niger), Chudier Bile (South Sudan) and American point guard Alex Robinson in their line-up, ABC look like they will serve up some mouth-watering basketball.

Mills spoke glowingly about the value add of Ivorian international Konaté and the newcomers to the team.

“When I was recruiting for ABC, my priority was to sign players of high character. The four players that we brought in, Abdoulaye Harouna, Chris Obekpa, Chudier Bile and Alex Robinson, fit that mould and are defence-orientated. You can’t win at the BAL if you do not have players who can play defence,” said Mills. “Having a leader like Stéphane Konaté is an honour and a pleasure. His experience and leadership made my arrival as a coach seamless. He is also the bridge between the players and the coaches.

“The chemistry that we have built in the short time we have been together is because of him.”

Stephane Konate
Stephane Konate’s leadership according to Liz Mills has been pivotal for ABC. Picture: FIBA

ABC are in the Sahara Conference group along with last year’s champions US Monastir (Tunisia).  AS Douanes (Senegal), Kwara Falcons (Nigeria), Rwanda Energy Group and Stade Malien (Mali) complete the group.

Looking at the Sahara Conference, the favourites to make it out of the group would be Monastir. After that, it’s left to the other four teams to battle it out for the remaining three playoff spots.

Mills also agreed that ABC’s group is a fairly open one.

“You have to respect that Monastir are the defending champions. But what makes this Conference exciting is that it is an open race. I think you might see some upsets in this group. Some teams are already talking about titles. For us, our first target is the playoffs,” said Mills, whose team takes on Douanes on opening night.

“We are excited to kick off the season against the hosts. We expect a great crowd. Also, there is a rivalry between the Ivorians and Senegalese, so it will make things interesting. We are confident heading into that game.”

As Mills plots ABC’s path to restoration, she knows that when the curtains open for BAL season three, only victory can return the giant Ivorian club to the continental map.

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1 thought on “Mills spells out ABC’s BAL aspirations”

  1. At the 2021 Afrobasket grand finals FIBA awarded three individuals the great honour of a “Gold Basketball” two of those awarded this rare honour in that day being Stéphane Konaté and Coach Liz Mills both together now representing Abidjan Basketball Club at the 2023 Basketball Africa League.

    Two Greats – One Team.

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