Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known by his stage name J. Cole, is one of the world’s most prominent hip-hop artists. On Sunday, 16 May, he made his bow in the Basketball Africa League (BAL) – the continent’s latest basketball tournament, which is backed by the American National Basketball Association (NBA).


Cole’s love of basketball is a well-known fact; he has referenced it throughout his musical career and once harboured hopes of becoming a professional player. The 36-year-old’s only on-court experience before the matchup on Sunday came in high school and university.

Word got out that Cole had signed for the Rwanda Patriots after his named was listed on the team roster released on Friday. Cole, who wears the number 15 jersey for the African outfit, was brought onto the team to play as a shooting guard.

“J. Cole is a very good shooter. We picked him because he has a really high IQ for the game,” Patriots chief operations officer Haydee Ndayishimiye said to AFP.

“He has a history of playing the game… We just thought that he was a great fit with the team and as we have seen in practice he is gelling well with the team. While they are practicing with him, they are looking good out there. He really compliments the team,” said Ndayishimiye.

She added that Cole’s contract was confidential and he will only be with the Patriots until the inaugural BAL tournament comes to an end on 30 May.


Cole enjoyed a quiet professional debut, coming off the bench to score 3 points, grab 3 rebounds and dish out 2 assists in 17 minutes.

.@JColeNC in his pro debut

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 16, 2021

 “Teammates had something against him or something. He was wide open a lot in rhythm in the first half and never got the ball,” commented one Twitter user.

To which another replied, “Probably because he didn’t spend 6 hours a day for years training to get there like most of his teammates.”

Jermaine Cole follow-up for his first points for @PatriotsBBC #theBAL

— Basketball Africa League (@theBAL) May 16, 2021

Patriots Basketball Club from Rwanda beat Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers 83-60 in the tournament opener in Kigali on Sunday.

The teams seemed pretty evenly matched in the early stages of the match but once the Patriots started gaining momentum the Hoopers could not find any answers.

The first quarter ended 18-17 in favour of the Nigerians, upon the restart Prince Ibeh, a 2.08-metre tall Center, got the Patriots going with two blockbuster slam dunks. They scored 13 points without reply and took control of the game.

This Prince Ebeh SLAM is your @WilsonBasktball Play of the Game #theBAL

— Basketball Africa League (@theBAL) May 16, 2021

Power Forward Brandon Costner led the box score in the match with 20 points while Ibeh contributed with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Rivers Hoopers featured former NBA point guard Ben Uzoh – who scored the first points in the newly formed tournament – but unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to secure victory for the team.

The Patriots will play their next match on Tuesday, 18 May when they take on Madagascar’s GNBC.

The Hoopers, on the other hand, will face US Monastir from Tunisia.

Additional reporting by AFP.

The South African