The bird basketball roundup: Khaman Maluach to join a US university, Kalahari Conference wraps up, upskilling for Kenyan girls

The bird basketball roundup: Khaman Maluach to join a US university, Kalahari Conference wraps up, upskilling for Kenyan girls

Khaman Maluach, a top-three 2025 NBA prospect, commits to Duke after offers from the NBA’s G-League and other top D1 schools in America, as the inaugural Kalahari Conference ends with Morocco’s FUS Rabat topping the standings. Elsewhere, 30 university-age girls in Kenya embark on a 5-month US Embassy-sponsored mentorship program to empower them and improve their basketball skills.

Silalei Shani, bird story agency

South Sudanese basketball star Khaman Maluach’s star is rising. The 7-foot-2 centre has secured a spot at Duke University. The potential top-three pick in the upcoming NBA Draft after impressive performances at NBA camps is currently based at the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal.

Maluach is being lauded as the next big potential NBA star to come out of the continent after being named MVP of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa camp last summer and then named both playoff and defensive MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Global camp at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis in February.

Franck Traore, head of basketball operations for NBA Africa, attributes Maluach’s success to his strong work ethic.

“Khaman is one of the most genuine and wonderful kids that we’ve ever seen… Always trying to do the right thing, always, on time, always wants to do extra, have to kick him out of the gym,” he shared.

Growing up in Uganda, the 17-year-old was spotted by a local high school coach when he was 13 before he was offered a school scholarship to study and learn the game of basketball. At the age of 16, Maluach, who joins Duke in the fall of 2024, helped South Sudan qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

He is an elite rim protector and tremendous rebounder who also has a strong, developing offensive package that will add to Duke’s perimeter-oriented system. 

The BAL Kalahari Conference, the most recent addition to the Basketball Africa League, ended after a successful inaugural start in Pretoria, South Africa. The conference began with 4 teams: Morocco’s FUS Rabat, Angola’s Petro de Luanda, Burundi’s Dynamo BBC, and Cape Town’s Tigers but continued with only three after the withdrawal of Dynamo BBC due to the refusal to comply with the league’s rules regarding uniform requirements.

At the end of the tournament, FUS Rabat (3-1) and Petro de Luanda (2-1) qualified for the BAL 2024 playoffs to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, while the Cape Town Tigers wait to secure one of the two slots available for the top two, third-placed teams across the conferences.

FUS Rabat’s John Jordan, who finished the final game with a team-high 19 points, gave tribute to the Kalahari Conference hosts.

“Shout-out to the city of Pretoria and the country of South Africa; the energy was great all week long and I am just thankful we had the opportunity to experience this. It’s a tough conference with a lot of good teams... Just to get away with the first place of the conference, it’s a good feeling,” he shared.

The next round of games, the Nile Conference, will take place next month in Cairo, Egypt, before action shifts to the Dakar Arena in Senegal for the Sahara Conference. The BK Arena in Kigali will host the playoffs and finals in May.

The US Embassy in Nairobi has partnered with Kenyan University, USIU (United States International University), to empower female students through a 5-month basketball and life skills development program. 

Dubbed “Basketball Mtaani,” the initiative launched by Grace Kiraguri, an alumnus of the espnW Global Sports Mentoring American Exchange program, targets 30 female basketball players selected across 5 local universities to use basketball to not only sharpen playing techniques but also equip players with professional skills through a structured mentorship program, complete with a curriculum.

The event was launched earlier this month in the presence of US Embassy Cultural Attaché John Drew Giblin, who urged the participants to take advantage of the next 5-month period to develop powerful tools that can help in life. 

“The USA has been at the forefront of film and fashion, and we deemed it fit to venture into sports, especially where Kenya is doing extremely well.”

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