PRAIA (AfroBasket 2015) - In the lead-up to AfroBasket 2015, we take a closer look at all 16 participating teams competing in the championship running from 19-30 August.
Team: Cape Verde
FIBA Ranking Men: 55th
Last participation in the AfroBasket: 2013 (4 wins, 3 defeats; 6th place)
Best result in the history of the AfroBasket: Third-place in in 2007
Qualified for AfroBasket 2015 - Double win over Guinea in Africa Zone 2 Group C qualifier.
For them, the feeling of playing that tournament in Angola - under Angolan head coach Emanuel Trovoada - was similar to playing in front of their home fans given the historical affinities between both countries.
In that tournament, Cape Verde won four games, but lost to the host twice.
And, it was the Angolans who denied Cape Verde a place in the final following a 93-60 victory in the Semi-Finals.
When the whole continent expected to see Cape Verde repeat their brilliance two years later in Libya 2009 they plummeted to a 13th-place, despite a comprehensive victory over Tunisia in the tournament opening.
Despite missing qualification for the 2011 edition of the tournament, Cape Verde showed up at AfroBasket 2013 prepared to live up to their giant-in-the-making reputation.
And, everything was running according to plan for the islanders, until the moment they crossed Egypt’s way in the Quarter-Finals.
The North Africans, who had a poor start to the tournament, upset Cape verde in the waning seconds of the game.
This year, however, Cape Verde defeated Guinea in a two-team Africa Zone 2 Group C qualifier, to qualify for the AfroBasket 2015.
Key Player: Cape Verde have not one, but a few key players.
Mario Correia and Rodrigo Mascarenhas - who haven’t missed an AfroBasket appearance since 2007 - are the most experienced players in the group, and despite being 30-plus-years-old, the pair has the 'know-how’ of AfroBasket. While Correia is a natural shooter, Mascarenhas is a tough rebounder.
Then, they have a super athletic Ivan Almeida, playmaker Brian Rudolph and prolific Jeff Xavier.
Sorely Missed: Walter ‘Edy’ Tavares should have been highly valuable protecting Cape Verde’s painted area, but the 2.22m center has chosen to focus in his NBA career.
The 23-year-old, who was a second-round pick in last year’s NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks, has become the first Cape Verde-born player to be signed an NBA team, and Tavares is making sure all goes according to plan.
Rising Star: Kevin Coronel played a pivotal role for Cape Verde during the qualifiers. And, this year’s AfroBasket could be the 23-year-old’s road to stardom.
Outlook: Sitting in the FIBA Men Ranking above continental household names such as Mali, Morocco and the Central African Republic is not a mathematical mistake.
In their last three AfroBasket appearances (18 games), the islanders recorded eleven victories, and the general feeling among players, fans and officials is that this team has some unfinished business in the continental scene.
The team has abundant talent, an experienced head coach - Luis Magalhaes has won the tournament in 2009 at the helm of Angola -, and more importantly, they feel they have nothing to lose coming up against big names in the continent as they showed two years ago, beating a star-studded Nigeria team.
They should have held the biggest part of their preparations in Portugal, but have spent most of their training camp in the capital city Praia - where Magalhaes was not impressed with the training facilities -, and Dakar, where they were expected to take part in a four-team international tournament along with hosts Senegal, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire.
Cape Verde could finish in the top two places of Group D, which includes Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire and AfroBasket debutant Zimbabwe.
In just six words: Capable of improving latest AfroBasket appearance.