Jamel Artis disputes reason for Cape Town Tigers departure

Leonard SolmsSpecial to ESPN3 Minute Read

KIGALI, RWANDA -- Former Cape Town Tigers small forward Jamel Artis has denied that he was too injured to play at the Basketball Africa League playoffs, after the South African club replaced him with former New York Knicks forward Cleanthony Early.

The Tigers' media officer told ESPN that Artis had been ruled out of the playoffs due to an injury sustained against Espoir Fukash during the Nile Conference in Cairo in April.

Former Orlando Magic player Artis confirmed the injury, but said it was not serious enough to rule him out of the rest of the tournament, telling ESPN: "Basically, the true story is: I got hurt [and] they didn't want to give me a chance to recover."

READ: Everything you need to know about the BAL 2022

Artis sought an independent medical opinion from a doctor in Cape Town, which he said contradicted the feedback given to him by the Tigers. Nevertheless, he was replaced by Early for the playoffs in Kigali.

Artis added: "[The doctor] said: 'No need for [an] MRI [scan]. You will be good in 10 days. Just give it 10 days to heal.' For sure, it healed right. I was back to normal in no time.

"All I needed was a week and a half. They went with another option. I was averaging [14.7] points before the game [in which] I got injured."

Jamel Artis played a large role in helping Cape Town Tigers qualify for the BAL playoffs, but says he was not injured enough to be dropped from the team for the Kigali finals.Julien Bacot/NBAE via Getty Images

Artis claimed that his teammates were blindsided by the decision, just as he was: "My teammates loved me. You can ask them yourself. I'm not too sure [what happened] because we [were] all shocked by the decision."

The Tigers were without Billy Preston and Artis for their opening game in Cairo, due to the pair being in COVID-19 isolation, and they lost by a whopping 29 points to Petro de Luanda. The difference in the team's play was marked upon the Americans' return, as the Tigers gave hosts and defending champions Zamalek a good scare, before going on to beat Cobra Sports and FAP in back-to-back wins.

Teams at the BAL are allowed only two non-African player. Although he emphasised his respect for Early and Preston, who is the Tigers' other American player, Artis said he still felt he did enough to earn a spot at the playoffs.

"I feel like I didn't really get the opportunity that I should have gotten, but still [ended] up playing good enough to get them in the playoffs," he said.

"If you look at film, it will show you, especially the FAP game -- they sat Myck [Kabongo, who was ejected after five personal fouls,] down [in] the fourth quarter and put me at point guard.

"I won us that game. Yes, Evans [Ganapamo] hit the shot to win, but if you ask and look, I won us the game. Even all the coaches said that to me. [If we lost that game, they [wouldn't be] in the playoffs. It's all good though. Time will show and come back around again."

The Tigers will face Tunisia's US Monastir in the quarter-finals on Sunday at 14:30 CAT. The winner will face Egypt's Zamalek or Guinea's Seydou Legacy Athl├ętique Club (SLAC) in the semi-finals on May 25.

ESPN contacted the Cape Town Tigers organisation for comment on Artis' claims, but received no response.

The BAL airs on ESPN in Africa, and on ESPN+ and ESPNNews in the US.

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