The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
THE final round of the Road to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) is nigh, and Zimbabwe’s very own JBC will this week tussle it out for the remaining two slots available when they take part in the Division East Elite 16 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The competition, which was pushed back by a week, will now be held at the Ellis Park Arena from November 21 to 26.
JBC are in Pool B — alongside BAL regulars Ferroviário da Beira (Mozambique), City Oilers (Uganda) and Indian Ocean Island powerhouse COSPN.
The reigning Harare Basketball Association Super Six champions left for South Africa yesterday.
The postponement of the tournament by a week afforded coach Addison Chiware time to prepare his team.
It also afforded the team time to get in a few more extra competitive games, as JBC resumed their Super Six title defence by beating new boys Basket Hounds 75-65 and edging UZ Stars 48-43 last week.
The wins maintained the team’s unbeaten run in the competition, stretching their winning streak to 37 games.
“It is neither here nor there, to be honest,” said Chiware on the postponement of the BAL qualifiers.
“One can never have too much time for preparations, and we tried to use the extra week to fine-tune our game processes and strategies.
“As it pertains to the unbeaten run, I am not reading too much into it.”
JBC left for the tournament with a clean bill of health and will reunite with some of their foreign-based players in Johannesburg.
Tyjhai Beyers has been a revelation for the Zimbabwean outfit, with Chiware describing the American centre as the team’s “rim protector”.
After three matches, Beyers has played an average of 26,9 minutes — chipping in 16 rebounds, three blocks and contributing at least four points per match.
Tashinga Chiimba has been the go-to guy for the team on the offense, averaging 18 points, six rebounds and 0.3 assists per match.
He has found ample assistance from power forward Innocent Zhomwa, who averaged 13 points, two rebounds and 1.3 assists per match during the preliminary stages of the qualifiers.
Given that the Division East Elite 16 stage of the qualifiers is a different ball game altogether, Chiware has added a little more arsenal to his team and acquired the duo of guard Curtis Hollis (United States) and small forward Nyang Wek (South Sudan).
“We were lucky to escape the extra week with no worrisome injuries,” said the former Zimbabwe senior national team coach.
“The boys look to be in good shape and the hope now is that we go to South Africa and get the job done.
“We will link up with our foreign-based players in South Africa, after which we get in a few practices before we play our first game against Ferroviaro da Bera on Tuesday.
“As far as new acquisitions are concerned, we have brought one new centre (Hollis) and a guard from South Sudan, Nyang Wek,” he said.
JBC go into the week-long tournament as the dark horses of their group, while Ferroviário da Beira and City Oilers are clear favourites to progress to the knock-outs.
COSPN are no pushovers but remain the team the others will fancy their chances against.
In the tournament’s format, the last round of qualifiers has eight teams that have been divided into two groups of four teams.
The respective groups will play each other in a round-robin format, with the top two teams progressing to the semi- finals.
The tournament’s finalists qualify for next year’s BAL, slated for March.
Group A of the Division East Elite 16 will comprise Pazi BC (Tanzania), Dynamo (Burundi), an NBA Academy Africa side and Cape Town Tigers (South Africa).