After Kwara Falcons won the 2023 edition of the Louis Edem Basketball Tournament, Queen Moseph, a basketball journalist and the Media Officer of Port Harcourt based Rivers Hoopers, posted a reel on her Instagram account to celebrate them. The song on the reel caught my attention. It was Fireboy DML`s hit-track - Bandana. There could not have been a more perfect song that tells the Falcons story.

Low-key/ All of them don dey notice

I`m not joking/ All my guys dem, dem know me

Since `06/ I`ve been writin` this story

I no be OG/ But, if you ask dem, dem know me

Kwara Falcons were promoted to the Premier Basketball League after emerging as winners of the Atlantic Conference in the 2013 National Division 1 Championship. They played their debut season in the league, officially called DSTV Premier Basketball League sponsorship purpose, in 2014. In their first year, their goal was to survive relegation, and they did.

In the 2015 season, with more league experience and armed with players like Baba Jubril (now Head Coach), Lanre Alimi and Tunde El-Alawa they set out to do more than just participate. They wanted to establish themselves in the Atlantic Conference among teams like Lagos Islanders, Dodan Warriors, Union Bank, Customs. They finished third in the Conference at the end of the regular season behind Islanders and Warriors but failed to win a single game during the Conference Six Playoffs.

They took lessons from their disappointing Conference appearance and returned with more determination. With the addition of players like Mojuba Oyeleye from Oluyole Warriors and rookie Godwin David, and the appointment of veteran coach Adewumi "Owolo" Aderemi, the Falcons dominated the Conference in seasons that followed.

They finished top of the Atlantic Conference during the regular season and the Conference Playoffs in 2016 and 2017, recording the most regular season wins (14) in the league in 2016 ahead of Kano Pillars (12) and Gombe Bulls (12) of the Savannah Conference. However, they fell short at the semi-finals of the Final Eight Playoffs in both years.

They lost to Kano Pillars in the semi-finals of 2016 and lost the third place game to Conference rivals, Rivers Hoopers. History repeated itself in 2017 as they lost to Kano Pillars again in the semis. They also fell to league debutants, Hoops & Read in the third place game.

Despite these semi-final losses, they had made a statement in professional basketball in the country. They had the attention of all the other players, team owners and administrators. The Falcons were coming. Low key, all of them don dey notice.

Sadly, they were unable to capitalise on this momentum as the leadership crisis in the National Basketball Federation (NBBF), the governing body of basketball in Nigeria, threw a clog in the wheels of basketball development in the country.

An abridged league was organised in 2018 and a President`s Cup in 2019 and 2021, all of which were won by Rivers Hoopers, the King`s men. Hoopers would represent Nigeria in the first season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) and finish 9 th overall. Another power tussle, this time between the NBBF and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, prevented Hoopers from playing in the second season of the continental championship.

The 2022 season of the Premier Basketball League was to determine the representative of the country in the third season of the BAL, and the Falcons decided it was a good time to make a comeback. They started their comeback run with the Sam Oguche Basketball Tournament, an invitational tournament that was held a week before the league tipped off. Their victory at the tournament and the N1m cash prize gave them the energy and motivation they needed for the league.

They played remarkably well in the league winning their semi-final game against Benue Braves comfortably with a 24 point margin and qualifying for the Playoffs final for the first time in franchise history. Customs did not pose any threat to the Falcons in the final game as the Falcons dominated all four quarters and winning with 25 points. Falcons were crowned league champions.

Their victory did not surprise many, though. Since `14, they`ve been writing this story. The Falcons still have a long way to go to rival club like Kano Pillars who have won seven league championships. Dem no be OG (not yet)/ But, if you ask dem, dem know the Falcons.

Ahead of their appearance at the BAL Season 3, Falcons have recruited new players including Lekan Ogunjimi and wonder boy Owen Oriakhi to strengthen the squad. They also played in the recently concluded Louis Edem Invitational Basketball Competition which they won.

The Falcons are grouped alongside Abidjan BC (Cote DíIvoire), Stade Malien (Mali), AS Douanes (Senegal), REG (Rwanda) and US Monastir (Tunisia) in the Sahara Conference. Their goal will be to improve upon the performance of Rivers Hoopers during the first season and make it out of the group stage to the Quarter Finals. The other teams in group had better not underestimate them. Otherwise, they`ll never see them coming (joor joor joor joor)

Fly high Falcons, fly high. Naija boys wey dey go foreign

by Adedammy Adedotun


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