Manchester Giants have moved quickly to add powerful forward Manou Cristal Malalu to the squad ahead of the 2019-20 British Basketball League (BBL) campaign, joining in time for the first pre-season friendly against USA Select on Thursday.

Malalu – a 6’8” Dutchman – joins from Italian side Basket Bellizzi where he averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds per game in 2018-19, shooting 54% from the field. His team finished fourth in the Serie C Gold Campania division with a 17-5 record, while also reaching the divisional play-off semi-finals.

Prior to that, Malalu played four years of college basketball in the United States, latterly for Slippery Rock in Pennsylvania, at the NCAA Division 2 level. There, he averaged 7 points and 6 rebounds per game, shooting 62% from the field and 63% from the free-throw line, while leading the team in rebounding in his junior year. He was a top 20 rebounder and top 10 offensive rebounder in all of NCAA Division 2 in his senior year, as well as top 15 in field goal percentage.

In his senior campaign, the team had a 21-9 record and reached the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) quarter-finals, after finishing third in the conference.

He arrived at Slippery Rock via two years of Junior College at Marshalltown Community College in NJCAA Division 1, where he averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds, shooting 56% from the field.

In summer 2018, Malalu featured for a Dutch select side in a tournament in Italy, alongside established international players such as Jito Kok, Bryan Alberts, Roeland Schaftenaar, Terrence Bieshaar and Boy Van Vliet, as well as up and coming Dutch players such as Derrik Smits of Butler in the Big East.

In two games against Italy and Germany, Malalu gained great experience and gave a good account of himself putting up an average of 3 points and 2 rebounds in 10 minutes per game.

Head Coach Danny Byrne commented:

“We have had to move fast in the last few days to get a deal done before our first pre-season game, and we’re really pleased to have managed to get someone who had been on our radar for two years already, and who fits our philosophy and style.

“Cristal brings an array of offensive tools to the forward positions, scoring aggressively close to the basket and creating second opportunities as a big offensive rebounder. But he is also able to knock down his shots, making him difficult to guard and giving us another dimension. Defensively he is a big presence in the paint, and brings the kind of physicality that is required in the BBL.”

Cristal Malalu said,

“I’m excited to come and play for Giants, and also to be able to play in a very competitive league such as the BBL. I’m blessed, and thankful to Coach Byrne and his staff for giving me a shot at proving myself and improving my game in this league.

“I’m all in for team success, and want to give this organisation a shot at the Play-offs again. I play with a lot of passion and energy on offence and defence, being able to guard multiple positions, varying inside and outside game, scoring in lots of ways, and rebounding.

“I can’t wait for the season to start and to #beeGIANT!”