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Basketball Africa League names inaugural teams

CHICAGO — The NBA-backed Basketball Africa League on Saturday announced the 12 teams that will compete in the inaugural season.

The clubs, from a dozen African nations, are: Groupement Sportif des Pétroliers (Algeria), Petro de Luanda (Angola), Forces Armées et Police (Cameroon), Zamalek (Egypt), Gendarmerie Nationale Basketball Club (Madagascar), AS Police (Mali), AS Salé (Morocco), Ferroviàrio de Maputo (Mozambique), Rivers Hoopers BC (Nigeria), Patriots BC (Rwanda), AS Douanes (Senegal) and Union Sportive Monastirienne (Tunisia).

“It’s amazing creating a league in Africa,” said reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, a Greek born to Nigerian parents. “Giving opportunities to African talent and African players to go out there and showcase their talent, I knew it was going to happen.”

The teams from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda earned the right to be in the league through qualifying tournaments. The teams from Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia was guaranteed a spot by winning their national leagues.

The league tips off in Dakar, Senegal, on March 13.

“I think it’s really important because there’s a lot of special talent that the world doesn’t know about,” said Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid, who hails from Cameroon. “If you look at the guys in the league who have been able to make it, there’s probably somebody better than me or has the potential to be better than me in the future. So I think it’s a great initiative.”

Embiid, Antetokounmpo and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam — all of African descent — will be teammates on Team Giannis in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

Uniforms for the BAL season were also unveiled Saturday at All-Star weekend by Nike and Jordan Brand. The BAL will debut with the 12 club teams from across Africa divided into two conferences, with each conference playing in three cities. Each team will play five games in the regular season, all in-conference. The top four teams in each conference will qualify for single-elimination playoffs in Kigali, Rwanda.

“This is a historic moment as we welcome the 12 teams that will participate in our inaugural season,” BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall said. “These teams have earned the opportunity to represent their respective countries and will establish the BAL as a world-class product that entertains fans of all ages when the season tips off March 13.”

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