J. Cole is taking his basketball talents to Africa.
The Grammy-winning rapper is expected to sign with Rwanda Patriots BBC of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), ESPN confirmed on Monday. Cole (née Jermaine Lamarr Cole) is currently in a four-day quarantine. The Patriots open the inaugural BAL season Sunday night in a matchup against the Nigeria River Hoopers.
The 36-year-old — who’s showcased his on-court skills in viral videos from pickup games with NBA stars, including Carmelo Anthony and Trae Young — played basketball at Sanford High School in North Carolina, where he harbored a love for the sport and music.
He was a walk-on at St. John’s. Before he could suit up for a Division I game, Cole shifted his focus to music, previously saying that his short distance from the city helped him to meet label execs.
The news comes less than a year after Master P claimed Cole was training for a career in the NBA. The rapper, who had short preseason stints in the late ’90s with the Hornets and Raptors, said Cole approached him to ask about what it takes to make it in the NBA.
“When I talked to J. Cole, he was like ‘You know, big dog you did it. What do you think I would have to do to make it happen?’,” Master P, born Percy Robert Miller, told TMZ. “I said to get one of these NBA jerseys, it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be a lot of hate, it’s gonna be a lot of people not believing in you but you know J. Cole — he got the right size, he [is] in the gym!
“But, what I told him … this [is] a different time we’re in. They’re going to pick you apart! You’re gonna have to be able to hit every shot and if you don’t hit every shot, they — you know in the NBA, they don’t hit every shot but they believe in them. So, you’re gonna have to go somewhere where the team really believe[s] in you and the players believe in you.”
Bottom line: “Either you’re gonna be good enough to play or you’re gonna get exposed,” he said, noting he believes in Cole’s “desire” and skills.
Cole, who signed a multi-year deal with Puma Basketball in 2020, is also set to release his long-awaited new album, “The Off-Season,” this Friday.
As for how the BAL will operate in its first-ever season?
The new league, which was initially announced in early 2019, with a video narrated by President Barack Obama, will begin its first season on May 16, at the Kigali Arena in Kigali, Rwanda. A total of 12 teams from across Africa will represent Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia respectively.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, BAL will implement extensive health and safety protocols for the teams and personnel traveling to Rwanda, based on guidance from the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a FIBA press release in March.
The new league’s format for the inaugural season will include a total of 26 games at the Kigali Arena — with an 18-game group phase, where the 12 teams will be divided into three groups of four. During the group competition, each team will play the other three teams in its group once. Then, the top eight teams from the group phase will qualify for the playoffs, which will be single elimination in all three rounds.