PORT Elizabeth professional basketball franchise PE Windbreakers say they are primed for the start of the inaugural Basketball National League (BNL) championships today.
Windbreakers will be the only basketball franchise to represent the Eastern Cape at the tournament and the team comprises players selected from the teams around the Nelson Mandela Bay region.
The league is the highest national basketball platform to be established after the Premier Basketball League, dominated by Gauteng teams, closed down in 2006.
Windbreakers face Klerksdorp (North West) side Goodfellas in their opening match tomorrow and they will clash with Cape Town Mountaineers (Western Cape) on Sunday. Both games will be held at the Wembley indoor stadium in Johannesburg.
All BNL fixtures for the eleven teams participating in the national championships campaign will be played at the same venue.
Windbreakers team manager Sibongile Fondini said they had assembled a formidable squad to monopolise the sport.
"Since the first news of securing this franchise last month we have been hard at work preparing and the players are confident and eager to compete in this league.
"It is undoubtedly going to be a very tough competition from all of the 11 teams in the league, with lots of experienced players in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal teams. But we are absolutely confident that we are going to do well."
Fondini said since the recent launch of BNL, the tournament had drawn a lot of interest and excitement among basketball fans within the Eastern Cape, and the side would be counting on their support.
League chairman Albert Mokoena said they had divided the 11 teams into two groups. Egoli Magic, Goodfellas, Panthers, Mbombela Wildcats, Polokwane Trailblazers and Tshwane Suns are the northern conference teams, while Cape Mountaineers, Kimberley Diamonds, Windbreakers, Free State Golden Warriors and KZN Marlins make up the southern conference.
"For the first time, all nine provinces will be represented in this league with Gauteng having three teams, while the rest of the provinces are represented by one each.
"The opening of this league [tonight] will feature a classy opening ceremony with entertainment provided by top-class national artists, with the first game of this season on the same day between archrivals the Soweto Panthers and KwaZulu-Natal Marlins."
He said the club was planning to form a partnership with the Bay municipality, but the negotiations were still in process. All the NBL matches and the opening ceremony will be broadcast live on SuperSport.