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President Uhuru Kenyatta has sent a message of condolence to the family, friends and relatives of celebrated rugby coach Benjamin Ayimba who passed away on Friday night at a Nairobi hospital.

The President mourned the departed sportsman as a Kenyan great and an icon of rugby saying Ayimba had inspired a generation of Kenyans to take up and excel in rugby. 

“It is a sad day in the history of Kenyan sports having lost Benjamin. From his exploits on the field as as a rugby player and on the touch line as a coach, Benjamin inspired a generation of young Kenyans to take up and excel as rugby players. He was truly a national rugby icon," the President eulogised.

“As a nation, we will forever be grateful for his great contribution to Kenya’s sports especially for the many accolades he earned the country over the years," the President added.

President Kenyatta recalled the late athlete's successes in rugby saying his most outstanding memory, as a rugby fan, was in 2016 when Kenya, coached by Ayimba, lifted the World Rugby Sevens Series main cup in Singapore after beating heavyweights Fiji. 

He pointed out that the late Ayimba helped lift Kenya's rugby from national obscurity to international stardom, positioning the country on the global map as one of the world's emerging rugby nations.

“Besides earning Kenya accolades and global recognition as a rugby nation, Benjamin and his generation of players and coaches helped grow Kenya's brand abroad benefiting sectors such as tourism, hospitality and aviation," the President noted.

President Kenyatta prayed to God to give the family of the departed Kenyan hero strength and fortitude during this difficult period of mourning.

Officials attend the announcement of the the NBA-backed Basketball Africa League at the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, July 30, 2019. Play finally gets underway May 16, 2021. Photo AFP

 

KIGALI, RWANDA - The first game of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) tips off on Sunday in Rwanda, and fans of the sport say they hope the new league, and playing host to the games, will shine a spotlight on African players and help promote the sport in Africa.

Competition was to have begun last year but was put off in March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday, finally, Rwanda's Patriots will face off against Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers at Kigali Arena, which will host all the games.

Some Rwandan basketball supporters lament that required coronavirus testing will prevent them from being able to attend the games at Kigali Arena. But many will be cheering from a safe distance.

Arnold Nkusi, 21, plays for the Rwandan military-funded APF, or Army Patriotic Front Club. A former student in the U.S. state of Texas, he said he thinks the BAL is "a great step for African teams. They can show how they are good in their talent."

"In the past years," he said, "we haven’t had time to, like, to show our potential and everything. So now it is a good opportunity, especially that it is happening in Rwanda. Now our players will be looked at so we can have scouts and agents coming in to watch our players play and have opportunities to play abroad.”

The BAL is a partnership of the U.S. National Basketball Association and the Geneva-based International Basketball Federation (FIBA). It's the NBA's first effort to launch a league outside North America.

Rwandan basketball emerged only in the last couple decades, but the national team has qualified a few times for the FIBA AfroBasket, another continent-wide tournament. 

Stratton Ahimana, president of Rwanda’s Association of Basketball Umpires and a member of the technical committee in Rwanda’s Basketball Federation, said the umpires he leads needed to attend to see the level of officiating at this tournament so they can share knowledge and experience with their colleagues.

Cliff Owor, head coach of the APF club, said Rwandan and other African teams that compete in this league will benefit a lot, especially coaches and players who will gain experience through these games.  Although it comes amid COVID-19 and a difficult period, he said, the experience they will gain is priceless.

VOA will simulcast BAL games in English and French and provide play-by-play coverage in Bambara, Kinyarwanda, Wolof and Portuguese. - Alex Ngarambe, Voice of America

Photo Getty/Kevork Djansezian

 

American rapper J. Cole is expected to suit up and play for the Rwandan Patriots BBC in the Basketball Africa League, according to multiple reports. A source told SportsCenter is expected to become official on Thursday.

The musician will play three to six games as one of two non-African players on the Patriots' roster alongside former North Carolina State University basketball standout Brandon Costner, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. 

J. Cole, who was born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, is a musician and songwriter with his own label, Dreamville Records. On May 4, the rapper announced that his next album, "The Off-Season," will be released on May 14, just two days before he's expected to play in his first game as a professional basketball player.

Despite being mostly known for his lyricism and becoming a platinum-selling artist with no features, J. Cole's love of basketball has been chronicled extensively. The musician, who played two years of varsity in high school, told Sports Illustrated in 2013 that he tried out for St. John's University's basketball team while he attended the school, but did not attend the second day of walk-on tryouts in order to pursue his musical aspirations.

The rapper's basketball talents were placed under the national spotlight in 2012 when he participated in the 2012 ESPN All-Star Celebrity Game and became one of the first celebrities to ever dunk in the festivity. 

Rapper and former professional basketball player Master P said in 2020 that J. Cole was considering trying to earn an NBA contract, leading to the Detroit Pistons offering him a chance to try out for their roster.

The rapper has also been seen holding his own in pickup games against NBA veterans and stars such as CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, Trae Young, and JR Smith. - Madison Hall, Insider

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