Gambia Set for All-Star Showdown

The Gambia will stage its first 'All-Star Basketball Game' in recent memory, comprising of the national league's best 24 players, on Saturday at the Independence Stadium Court in Bakau. The event is being organised by the Gambia Basketball Association.

An all-star game is an exhibition game played by the best players in their sports league, except in the circumstances of professional sports systems in which a democratic voting system is used. The players are often chosen by a popular vote of fans of the sport and the game often occurs at the halfway point of the regular season, although this is not the case for some all-star games (such as the Pro Bowl). The method of choosing teams varies, but the selection is usually based upon geographical situation of the clubs or the nationalities of the players involved.

In the United States of America, which is more familiar to an All-Star Game, the exhibition is hosted annually by the National Basketball Association (NBA), matching the league's star players from the Eastern Conference against their counterparts from the Western Conference. The idea of holding an All-Star Game was conceived during a meeting between NBA President Maurice Podoloff, NBA publicity director Haskell Cohen and Boston Celtics owner Walter A. Brown. At that time, the basketball world had just been stunned by the college basketball point-shaving scandal in 1950-1951.

The Gambian game as Observer Sports learnt will be dubbed "The Thank You Game", the Association's way of expressing gratitude to those who made a first national league after an eight-year hiatus successful.

This development was revealed by the president of the Gambia Basketball Association, Muhammed Papa Njie, who was speaking on West Coast Radio's Monday Night Show, Sports File. But unlike in the United States of America where fans select their best team, the Gambian team was selected by the match officials based on the player statistics provided from the first round of the season.

His words: "What we did was, we went through the statistics and chose the best 24 players. These [players] are future national team players and this is a starting process where we will start to groom a national team. So we have decided to take a 24-man team and divide them into two groups to compete against other. What we try to do at the Basketball Association is, for us to have one big family. The motto is to compete fairly but fiercely. Compete fiercely among ourselves but fairly and in order to promote that, that's the reason we have decided to bring everybody together. The referees actually did the selection, not us [the executive] and they did the division of the players. They are not based on club lines, [but] basically on height and the position you play. So it's different, we are coming in with a very different way."

Papa Njie explained that the players in the All-Star team were predictably dominated by those playing in the teams occupying the top four positions in the standings. But there was still places in the team for a couple more players who had incredible seasons up to date despite their teams poor campaign.

"The [top] four teams [in the league] will dominate the selection. We might have one or two teams that are not [amongst] the top but individually they have very good players. Really we based the selection on statistics because I think that's the way we should be going now. We don't look at the player and say he is a star or he was once a star [so therefore] we should select him. No, you have to perform on the court and you have to play regular games. I think that is what is lacking in most disciplines. We believe in performance and that's why we decided to get the referees because they are present in every game and we used the statistics to do the selection," he remarked.

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