Beira reminds Gueye of his humble beginnings

Defence will make the difference for Beira

WHEN Senegalese big man Makhtar Gueye committed himself to play for Mozambican club Ferroviario da Beira for this season’s Basketball Africa League (BAL), his arrival to the same named city, while humbling also caused a shock to his system.

Gueye, from Rufisque in Senegal, says that Beira, making their second appearance in the league, showed interest in him after displaying his prowess at the BAL Combine in Paris, France. Following the Combine, negotiations for Gueye’s services were done telephonically, and that was the smooth part of the process.

“The Combine was a great platform. It was good exposure for me. I had the opportunity to represent my country, my family and myself. It was a way of showcasing talent and to talk with team managers. I had a lot of offers, but I picked the best deal for me,” said the Senegalese international speaking to The Big Tip Off on Tuesday.

“I also considered my style of play, and I think Beira was the best fit for a player like myself. Also, one of my former coaches in Spain knew the Beira coach (Luis Hernandez). So he put us in touch, and I liked what Coach Hernandez had to say.”

Ferroviario da Beira’s Makhtar Gueye takes on Michael Gbinije of Cape Town Tigers. Pictures: Supplied

Upon arrival in Beira, Gueye, a second-year pro, was shocked by the destruction caused by a cyclone that ravaged the city in 2019.

While it was an eye opener, the former CB Menorca player took the state of affairs in Beira in his stride, as what he saw reminded him of his humble beginnings.

“It was crazy. It’s nothing near what I thought about Mozambique. Because all communication was through the phone, I thought everything was in Maputo. But I learnt I was going to Beira. They had the cyclone, which damaged the city and the gym, so things were different there,” said Gueye, who represented Senegal in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.

“In such situations, you learn to have grace. As a kid in Senegal, I remember experiencing a similar situation and having to practice on a concrete court. So, I have an appreciation for the situation. The coach has also been good in managing the situation and helping us to get comfortable.”

 

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Another challenge Beira faced was the lack of preparation for their Nile Conference campaign. The inactivity of the Mozambican domestic league meant that the Southern African club could not get the necessary game time.

On top of their preparation woes, the Mozambican club started the competition with two tough games, against Al Ahly and Petro de Luanda, which they lost.

“It’s hard to prepare for a high-level competition like this and not get games before it starts. We knew it was going to be hard, especially starting against the two best teams in the conference,” said the Seed Academy Alumni. “We had to grind and stick to how we play, and it paid off in our third game.”

And pay off it did as the 6ft10 (2.08m) Gueye and his teammates managed to secure their first win (109-97) against Seydou Legacy Athletique Club (SLAC) on Sunday.

Gueye scored 15 points and eight rebounds against SLAC, while American combo-guard Najeal Young contributed 26 points, three assists and five rebounds, but the fourth-quarter exploits of team captain Will Perry won the game for Beira.

Perry made four threes in a 41-point performance, for Beira to reclaim a lead they had lost and gain a first victory.

Makhtar Gueye believes defence will be key to qualifying for Kigali. Picture: The BTO

Gueye says the battle against SLAC was one of the most challenging in his career.

“It’s one of the toughest games I have played since I started playing basketball. We had a good approach, and we were aggressive from the start. We had a good to close out the half, and we talked about them making their run,” said the University of Alabama player. “When they did make their run, other things happened as well. Najeal got injured, I got into foul trouble, and Bourouma (Sidibe) fouled out. So, Will had to carry the team.

“We were resilient. That is what gave us the game.”

Beira have also added the scalp of the Cape Town Tigers to have a 2-2 record. A victory over the winless City Oilers on Friday night will guarantee Beira’s progress to the playoffs in Kigali, Rwanda.

Ahead of their remaining games, Gueye said they have to lock in defensively to win and qualify for the playoffs.

“Defence! In these types of tournaments, defence wins you games. If we do not defend well, then we will lose. We can score 200 points, but we must play defence to stop our opponents from scoring the same amount. That will make the difference. Defence!” concluded Gueye.

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