The MENA Basketball Showcase launched its first annual exhibition with local and international players putting their talent on display at Al Wasl Sports Club, Dubai on Saturday afternoon.
Potential future stars from 17 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Iran (MENA region) were invited as the first showcase of its kind in the region, inspired by McDonald’s All-American Game in the United States which celebrates the top high-school players from around the nation.
The UAE All-Star Game set the stage as the first contest, while the main event, the MENA All-Star Game, concluded the showcase.
Mixed in during quarter breaks of the second game were the 3-point and Slam Dunk contests as a number of the 42 elite players participating dazzled with their skills and athleticism.
In The MENA All-Star Game, Team Grey edged Team Black, 64- 48. The matchup was closely-contested throughout with the teams exchanging leads in the fourth quarter.
However, Team Grey’s defence down the stretch earned them the win as they locked down Team Black’s scorers and forced turnovers that led to fast-break points.
Taking home the MVP honours was power forward Haithem Saada, who finished with 17 points, four rebounds, two assists and three blocks in an all-round effort, despite being unfamiliar with his team-mates.
“I didn’t feel pressure but it was the first game to play with these guys and I didn’t know anyone,” said Saada after the win. “I felt like a stranger going to the court without knowing anyone. It’s different from the way we play in the club and how we play here. But I was so excited to play.”
The opener saw the UAE U-17 National Team defeat the UAE Expat All-Stars 47-35 with defence dominating the play. From tip-off, the National Team constantly pressured the Expat All- Stars, forcing turnovers and clogging the paint.
Abdullah Abdullah won the MVP on the strength of his double-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
In the loss, Expat All-Stars power forward Iyad Bugaighis of Libya had his own double-double with 11 points and an impressive 23 rebounds.
Ezzat El Kaissi of Lebanon hit seven of his 15 attempts to top Qatar’s Abdulrahman Saad (four) in the finals of the 3-point contest. The point guard won after claiming a thrilling, multi-round secondplace tiebreaker in the semifinals.
Expect some Dubai hoteliers to shed off their niceties and show their highly competitive and ferocious side in the Synergy Sports’ Inter-Hotel Basketball Tournament which will kick off on 30 May at Al Twar 2 Sports Hall in Al Qusais.
“The tournament is very competitive because the teams are fighting for the pride of their hotel or company,” Synergy Sports commissioner Chris Flores told Sport360. “But aside from the tough competition, the league also promotes unity and friendship among employees and staff of various hotels in Dubai through sport.”
The eight teams taking part in the event are Atlantis The Palm, Dubai; Auris Plaza Hotel, Conrad Dubai; Emaar Hospitality Group, Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, Raffles Dubai, Sofitel The Palm, Dubai and The H Hotel Dubai.
The basketball tournement will run for 10 weeks and games will be played on Fridays.
Atlantis coach Manuel Kuong hopes they can finally bring home the elusive championship trophy after finishing in the top four in several tournaments in the past.
He organised an open tryout to look for the best players from their hotel and he is relying on his Kenyan centre Rey Odhiambo and returning player Allan Omandi to carry the team to victory.
Auris Plaza Hotel team captain Jon Pecbot said his team – composed of Filipinos, Kenyans and Tunisians – may be newly formed but they will not back down against the more established teams.
“We will always demonstrate our fighting spirit,” he said.
Conrad Dubai team captain Philipp Villanueva said his team also has a strong chance to finish on top after being a finalist in another basketball tournament.
“We’re going to come out strong in every game. We’re going to show our character, we’re going to show our pride,” said Villanueva.
Qualifying for the semi-finals is a sure task for Mohanad Zarouq, team manager of Emaar Hospitality Group who believes their championship experience – having won two Cups so far this year – is their biggest advantage among other teams.
Mövenpick Assistant HR Manager Lilah Moukhtar said their team has been practising regularly in preparation for the tournament.
“Effort is the No. 1 thing. We want to play with intensity and energy in every game.”
Raffles Hotel team captain Rommel Lugo is confident his team will add another trophy to their collection.
“We are champions in a recent tournament and we will carry our momentum in this competition,” he said.
Sofitel Assistant HR Manager Vanessa Alvarez said their players are highly motivated and are ready to showcase their skills and talent in basketball.
She said: “We will finish in the Top 4.”
Meanwhile, player-coach Ricky Cabanlit gave a modest assessment of his team (The H Hotel Dubai) after the departure of some of their top players.
“Though our team is not that strong, other teams should not take us lightly because we can always pull an upset.” Cabanlit also summed up the objective of the tournament: “This will be intense, physical and rugged at times. But at the end of the day, we will get acquainted with our fellow hoteliers and we will definitely meet new friends in the industry.”
What: Synergy Sports Inter-Hotel Basketball Tournament
Kick-off: Friday (30 May 2014)
Where: Al Twar 2 Sports Hall, Al Qusais 2, Dubai, UAE
Contact person: Chris Flores (mob: 056 2305928 l tel: 04 2959239 I email: [email protected]
Entrance fee: 5 dirhams at the gate
There will be a chance to see the future basketball stars for free when the most talented players in the Middle East gather in Dubai on Saturday.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Basketball Showcase, presented by ANTA, will see 42 under-19 players from the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, South Sudan, Tunisia, Iran and Palestine in action.
The event, supported by Dubai Sports Council and UAE Basketball Federation, hopes to act as a platform in providing elite international education opportunities.
Spectators will be able to enjoy two high quality matches at Al Wasl Sports Club – the UAE All-Stars match at 11:00 and the MENA All-Stars clash at 13:00. Also part of the schedule is a slam dunk and 3-point competition.
Saeed Al-Naji, event director, said: “The UAE All-Stars game will be the under-17s national team and they will be playing against some of the UAE’s best expat players.
"In the MENA All-Stars game, there will be two Emiratis, three UAE expats and the rest of the players from around the region.
"These games are all about fun and it’s played in the lighter spirit, and we want to impress all the people with what a great sport basketball is. On Friday, these players will receive awards to highlight their individual talent.
“The aim is to highlight the values of the best players in the region. We want to expose them to new international opportunities and particularly to colleges that offers scholarships. Profiles will be created for these athletes online that will be available to scouting services around the world.”
During the time-out sessions and intervals of the matches, the spectators will have the opportunity to win some prizes.
Al-Naji said: “There will be different contests for the fans. We want them to be part of this great experience.”
Explaining why the event is free admission to the public, he added: “We want kids to get inspired. Sport can offer incredible rewards. My hope is that kids watching from the stands will stride onto the court as players and sporting scholars in the years to follow.”
VENUE: Al Wasl Sports Club, Dubai
WHAT: MENA Basketball Showcase
WHEN: Saturday from 11.00
Sport360 VERDICT: It will be an opportunity to see the future stars of basketball in the Middle East region. Spectators will be able to win some fantastic prizes and witness two great matches.