You Called It, Ref!

Let it be known I may burn at the stake and by that I mean be a target but I don’t care anymore; not after recent events. I think it is time the player spoke out as well.

I love the game of basketball; ask my sore knees and severally twisted ankles. They’ll vouch for me. I love competing because I get to see just how good I am and it turns out I’m not half bad. So everything should be a piece of cake on the court huh? Wrong! This is the part I stick my face into a cold bucket of water and scream till my lungs get filled.

My growing problem when it comes to playing basketball is the referees in the division one series of men’s basketball in the Accra Basketball League.  Now, I am no wuss and I sure as hell don’t like to make excuses when playing. You can foul me hard but as long as I had a good look at the rim and did not score after, I’d wave it off because you’ve got to be tough. As you read this, I’ve had one of the roughest games ever; I got three elbows to the mouth, two head butts to my stomach, two slaps and a scratch on my face. I look beautiful if you are wondering. What I am not happy about is I did not even receive a single call when these acts were committed in the plain sight of the referees.

One of them actually took the whistle out of his mouth and told my opponent to “stop the nonsense” or he would call a foul. My point is, it had already happened and no call was made because the referee didn’t feel like it. Whining you say? Maybe, but there comes a time in a man’s life when he’s got to do what he’s got to do and at this time it’s to whine like I’m Goldilocks running from the three bears.

The referees watched as I was hacked and bashed so hard even Freddy Krueger would have felt sorry for me. They brushed it off like you would a fly. However, touching the opponent or even grazing them led to calls that were raining harder than a hailstorm. The fans at Lebanon House saw it all, some were livid, some were obviously enthused about it and I just wanted to run over some officials with a tractor.

It’s their sense of power and entitlement that really grinds my gears. Referees shouldn’t be biased but they made their allegiance evident; it did not help that my coach called them out and challenged some of their procedures. It just added to it all. How many times has somebody been given a bit of power and abused it? Too many times, too many times. It happens across the country so naturally it has to manifest in a basketball match.

They started calling fouls where there weren’t any. One time, a teammate found the ball in his possession and on jumping seemed to have hit a wall in the air.  The crowd shouted “and 1” after the foul, the referee said travel… Sacré bleu! Now my tirade is almost over and let me make it clear it is 80% of the referees that seem to be this way. I play pickup with the other 20%, they’re cool. 

In all honesty, we have a problem with our game officials in the league. Just ask anyone who plays in it and gets on their bad side. Just like our smartphones need updates to function properly, these guys need to be updated too because their glitches are harming the game. I heard the league wanted to do things differently and change for the better this year, I wonder if these referees need a hint.

Written by David Maja Salako (@Linkingwordz)

The Mon Amis

Forgive me, my French fails me more times than I’d like to admit. However, there is one phrase I and probably every basketball player in the country can say that would fool any French speaking native. You guessed right; mon ami

On the court, you’ve got to communicate as my coach always says; be loud! Be loud! So obviously, you have to know names because "chale", "herh" and "boss" might not work if a guy foreign to your culture sees nothing but the rim on the drive. The solution? Inculcate a bit of foreign tongue into your regular pick-up session and voila, you establish a connection. With this simple rule in mind, it is safe to say every Francophone baller in the country (okay, maybe Accra) is referred to as Mon Ami at some point in time. I wonder how they feel about it though, being profiled, sort of. Ever wondered what we’d be referred to as if we were in their country?

Anyway, these guys ball hands down. They are rough and tough and don’t call petty fouls and by petty I mean a vicious elbow to the jaw. Stuff that you don't just walk off; they play through. Their dynamism and attitude towards the game is really refreshing. I can’t help but feel their culture of the game is on a whole different level and it is witnessed just by watching them play. They are like the tough pieces of meat you occasionally get in your food; you know, the type that exasperates you so bad you just lay it down and ask the heavens why.

In short, you've got to show some love and respect to the Mon Amis. Far from home usually in search of higher education or a better livelihood, balling in a foreign land. Without a doubt holding their own and earning our respect in the process.

Written by David Maja Salako (@Linkingwordz)

The Game Of Character


It was the first game of the season. The wait was over. The irreplaceable euphoria of playing in the 2015 Greater Accra division 2 basketball league was palpable. Coming off a strong pre-season, we were very confident going into this season. And why wouldn't we be. At the helm of affairs, we had one of the most confident people I have ever known. "You guys are the best team in this country", he'd often say. This may sound inconceivable to most, but he meant every single word of it. He only hoped that message could resonate to his players and that they would espouse that confidence and self belief. And we did. I mean when the man speaks, it's impossible not to believe him. We played the Reformers (junior team) in our first game. During our pre-season, our junior team gave them a good game and we actually beat their senior team. Hope this perspective gives you an idea about how big an upset it was when I tell you that we lost our first game to them. Yea, we did. 

And there it was. It was as though our demons of last season had reared their ugly heads again. To some extent, the seed of doubt was planted in our coach's mind and consequently that cascaded down to us. You see, self confidence is a good thing but an overdose of it sometimes engenders complacency and that has its concomitant problems. 

In the space of a 40 minute game, our minds which were hitherto filled with self belief and high expectations for months leading to the start of the league had suddenly been supplanted by self doubt and confusion. 

That loss reaffirmed the most important lesson we had learnt in our abysmal season last the year before; that NOTHING was going to be given to us. If we think we are the best then we should prove it every time we step on the court. After the game, coach reiterated that and threw a challenge to us and himself to simply back it up. We won our next game convincingly and then lost the next to the "Bad Boys Detroit Pistons" of our league (the Police team). However, in lieu of keeping our heads down and feeling despondent after another loss, we were proud of our efforts. To us, all wins and losses  are viewed in perspective. We don't necessarily judge our wins and losses by the scoreboard. How we play, how we execute our plays, how we communicate with each other, making reads, understanding why a decision we made is good or bad, how assertive players are, how players garner the courage to execute skills in game like conditions. To us, those count as wins and losses. Don't get it twisted, the final score on the scoreboard is not inconsequential to us,  however it's imperative to understand that winning the war ultimately, is contingent on winning these little battles. 

We lost our next game against Galaxy Basketball team and to be honest, it was a lackluster performance to say the least. It was a roller coaster season for us up to that point with highs and lows. But we knew we had to stay unflappable and focus on the ultimate goal. 

I joined DC Dynamics about five years ago. At that time I just wanted to play organized basketball. I loved this game so much, and It was all I could think about. It was pretty simple for me. I just wanted to improve and showcase my skills and hopefully make a profession out of it. As time went on I grew to understand that it wasn't that simple. It's not just a game. It's a powerful tool that can influence your life and the life of others. I learnt that there are so many aspects of the game that transcends into our daily lives. Hard work, team work, punctuality, confidence, sacrifice, passion,etc. And what better way than to use something that kids love to teach them these virtues. 

When I first joined, what I saw was in stark contrast to what I was used to seeing everywhere else in this country. I saw kids between the heights of 6'1 and 6'5 execute guard skills. This concept was alien to other basketball programs in Ghana who invariably taught them to basically live and die in the post. To some extent this is understandable considering the inherent lack of length in our basketball fraternity in the country. But these kids shouldn't be limited to some skills at the expense of others. That thought process alone epitomizes the culture of Dynamics. I was taught to challenge the status quo and push the frontiers of my abilities, as were my teammates. Mostly after our games people ask me why our "bigs" are always outside the paint. It's simple, our offense is predicated on every player being dynamic; being able to execute all skills that the game provides irrespective of their size or length. We needed to win our next 6 games to be crowned league champions and we braced ourselves for this prodigious task. 

We gave coach Feranmi a Gatorade bath. Every player cut a piece of the net. We were jumping and jubilating all over the place. It was absolutely bedlam with players showcasing all their dance moves. Well, that's how it happened in my dreams the night before our championship game. 

Conversely, we were all kinda laid back after we won it all. The reticence was bemusing to say the least. We had won it all. We won our last six games and were champions of the league. It then dawned on me. We weren't laid back after winning the championship because we were not excited, but because we knew how good we were and we finally backed it up. It was about damn time! I felt like an entertainer making a crowd go wild and then just dropping the mike and walking off after a performance. Yea, we got it like that. I sometimes wonder how a group of working class men who are limited to one or no practice a week, be such a formidable and organized force.  It's quite the conundrum. 

As the years go by, our basketball hours are mitigated due to other commitments, but the love and dedication never wavers. In the course of our season, encouraging words were echoed repeatedly. "Brick by brick, good is the enemy of great, focus on the little battles, focus on the task". In the NBA teams have film sessions, players only meeting, etc. These intangibles are equally as important as what happens on the court. It calibrates the mind to focus on the goal. At the beginning of the season, after our first loss, we became the laughing stock of the league. The chatter was that we were underachievers. We were in an unsafe place. A place life presents us in different ways and in different times. But we knew all we had to do was to get rid of self doubt and more importantly be indefatigable in our quest to be great in any situation we find ourselves in.  At the end of the day it wasn't just a basketball game, it wasn't just a division two league, it was a story of character. The story never ends. It beckons for a next chapter. And the success of this chapter becomes a benchmark for the next. 

Photos: Sena Asante.
Inspired by: Coach Feranmi, Dennis Boateng, Nana Yankah, Billy Mubarak, Sena Asante, Charles Fordjour, John Mensah, Nii lankai Mills, Nana Boakye, Patrick Obeng, Alwyn Bruce, Mingle Archibald, Reggie Boateng, David Maja, Emmanuel Mensah, Francis Okunade, Jayden Boateng(team mascot).

Is Rhythm and Rims Raising The Bar?

Even though it has been the most consistent league in the country, there's no arguing that the Accra Basketball League has lacked the growth and development required to keep both fans and players interested in the game. Many tournaments and leagues have sprung up over the years in an attempt to provide a more exciting alternative that would raise the standard of play while still keeping fans attached to the sport.
Cape Coast vs Ashaiman on match day two
That wave hasn't just been in Accra; Tamale had a short league a couple of years ago, Takoradi had a league running for a couple of years and Kumasi has the XBL now which is attracting hoop fans to various venues every week. Yaw Sakyi and his Rite Multimedia team over the past decade have also organized various tournaments for young players all over the country.

"We do not have a problem making the trip every week if this standard is going to be maintained", said Claudius Thompson, head coach of the Cape Coast team, "When we played in the Accra League, you didn't even know what you were playing for and my team was the second best team in the league for a couple of years", continued the man whose Cape Coast Hoops were once the most exciting team to watch in the country. If you're not sure yet, he's talking about the now rush! Community Basketball Tournament which has been going on at the Accra Polytechnic basketball court every Sunday afternoon for the past three weeks.

The tournament put together by Gametime Entertainment is a 10 week, 10 team league for seniors with teams from Cape Coast to Tema boasting a $3000 price for the winning team. The tournament has attracted a host of the nation's top players, a bunch of who play in the Accra League already. I've definitely heard more than one player in conversation talk about they will quit the Accra League to play in this new league if it's going to happen in subsequent years.

I've been to all three game days and I wouldn't mind spending the rest of this year's Sunday evenings at the Accra Polytechnic basketball court(says a prayer to the rain gods to spare us on Sundays). This league so far has had the closest thing to the whole package we've ever seen in Ghana basketball. The timing, the music, the people, the dancers, the artistes(VVIP passed through yesterday), the hype, the players and most of all the organization has been remarkable so far. Another thing worth mentioning is the organizers' ability to get very well known brands to sponsor the event. It is a well known fact that it's not an easy task getting sponsorship deals for basketball events in Ghana especially one that includes a big brand like Adidas and rapidly growing company like rush! energy drink.

A few concerns have however been raised by members of the basketball community about the tournament, the chief of which has been if Gametime can maintain the high standards they're setting with this maiden event. "It's hard to commit to anything long term right now as most of what we are able to accomplish has everything to do with support from the community teams as well as sponsors. We are working hard to make both parties continue to believe in us. If this happens, the sky is the limit", Lewis Fadipe, head of the Gametime team responded when asked.

Amida Brimah Becomes First Ghanaian to Play & Win NCAA Title Match

Brimah(35) and teammates start celebrating.
Photo courtesy: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

University of Connecticut freshman and 7ft Ghanaian centre, Amida Brimah became the first Ghanaian to ever play on a team in Division 1 NCAA championship game - and win! We've been following  Amida's progress right from the day he left the shores of Ghana to play ball in the states and have even made jokes about how all Ghanaian hoop fans got to turn to Husky fans because of him - Well, there's still limited vacancy on the Husky-bandwagon; you can grab a free seat.
Brimah and Napier
Photo courtesy: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Amida's team also became the first 7-seed team to win a national title increasing the Huskies' trophy count to 4 of 4 appearances in championship games since their first trophy in 1999. Their coach; a Husky himself and former NBA player Kevin Ollie, who played on 13 teams in a 12 year is also among the few coaches to have won a national title within 2 years after signing a five year deal. Twitter kept buzzing with tweets of excitement for his success from former NBA teammates including Allen Iverson, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Amida's numbers weren't monster numbers. This UConn team was led by senior guard and most outstanding player of the 2014 tournament, Shabazz Napier who finished with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. His six-game NCAA Tournament averages were 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.0 steals. Brimah finished the game early with foul trouble(as usual) having made no points, 4 rebounds and 1 block in 13 minutes on the court.
Napier goes for 2 of his 22 while Brimah looks on
Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Video: 2014 Republic Hall 3x3 Slam Dunk Finals

Saykan Bestman(SB) and Kwame Boamah(KB7) throw it down on the last day of  the 2014 Republic Hall 3x3

Photos: 2014 Republic Hall Week 3x3

This year's Repor Hall week 3x3 was run by Dynasty Basketball Association (DBA) as part of the Dynasty 3x3 Tour; the first ever 3x3 tour in Ghana. The winners of this tournament have qualified to play in the grand finale in December in Accra for the chance to be national champions. 

Vipers; a team of Kumasi based high school players upset the tourney favorites(ABC from Accra) to take home the 400 Cedis plus 2 Samsung phones prize. 

Click to view full details of results from the event and for information about other qualifiers. It's time to take your game from the STREETS to the WORLD STAGE. #GhanaBasketball #Dynasty3x3Tour 

This event was organized by Dynasty Basketball in collaboration with DC Dynamics Basketball and Rebound GH.

Dynasty Basketball 3x3 Tour

The Dynasty Basketball Association(DBA) is organizing the first FIBA endorsed 3x3 tour in Ghana. The tour which is being organized in partnership with REBOUND and the Ghana Basketball Association will give up to 200 basketball players from across country the chance to take their game to the FIBA 3x3 world stage.

The tour consists of three qualifiers between January and September and a grand finale in December. The top three teams in each qualifier will receive cash prizes as well as get automatic qualification to the grand finale event in Accra. The grand finale winners will be eligible to play in FIBA's world tour. 

The qualifiers will be held in three different locationsu and the locations are:
- 1st Qualifier (20TH – 22ND March ): Republic Hall 3x3 Tournament KNUST Kumasi
- 2nd Qualifier (19th April) : Easter 3X3 JAM Accra
- 3rd Qualifier ( July) : Varsity 3x3 Challenge Accra
- Grand Finals ( 26TH – 27TH December): DYNASTY BASKETBALL 3X3 TOUR FINALS Accra

Register here >