CAIRO - In their first FIBA Africa Champions Cup appearance since 2012, El Ahly dispatched all their seven opponents to become the continent’s new champions.
The Egyptians entered the tournament among a number of front-runners, but by the time they reached the last four, they beat Nigeria champions Kano Pillars before outlasting former FIBA ACC champions Recreativo do Libolo 68-66 in the Final.
Wayne Arnold, TarekEl-Ghannam and Markeith Cummings proved crucial for the tournament hosts, who became the first Egyptian basketball club - since El Gezira - to win the FIBA ACC in two decades.
Arnold and Cummings were so good that head coach El Ahly’s head coach Tarek Khairy made sure to pay tribute to the Americans: “When I chose them, I chose players that can play with a high performance in more than one position.”
While El-Ghannam finished with an average of 10 points and 11 rebounds, Arnold contributed team-highs 15.7 points and 4.4 assists per game.
Both Arnold and El-Ghannam were joined in the tournament All-Star team by Recreativo do Libolo’s Valdelicio Joaquim and Jekel Foster and AS Sale’s Abdelhakim Zouita.
It was a historic moment for the Cairo-based club who won their first-ever FIBA Africa Champions Cup trophy.
In the process, Arnold scooped the MVP award, and to make matters even sweeter for local fans who turned up in large numbers at El Ahly arena in Cairo.
Both runners-up Libolo and bronze medalists AS Sale of Morocco returned home with a 5-2 record apiece.
By averaging a tournament-high 3.6 blocks per game, El Ahly separated from their opponents as they finished as the only undefeated team in the competition.
Talking to FIBA.com, El-Ghannam said that "team spirit and our big fans were key in winning the tournament."
But, more importantly, the 38-year-old explained: "We always believed we could win.
"This is the most important title in my career. It is a great reward and gift to end my playing career next season."
Asked how he remained so focused for much of the tournament, the 2.11m former Egyptian international thanked coach Tarek Khairy:
"He is one of the reasons that I played at such high level. He always supports me."