YAOUNDE (AfroBasket Women 2015) - Angola represented Africa in the Olympics three years ago, but four real candidates head to AfroBasket Women 2015 aiming at denying thema place in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Only the winner of this year's AfroBasket Women secures direct qualification for the Olympics, while the teams that finish second and third will have a second Olympic chance by playing a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women next year.
And, Cameroon’s capital city of Yaounde will be home to Africa Women’s basketball from Thursday 24 September to Saturday 3 October.
Even though Gabon, Guinea, South Africa and Uganda have showed competitiveness in recent years, they are yet to be considered a major player in a title race.
Having won the latest edition of the All-Africa Games last week in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Mali enter the tournament as favourite not only for displaying a talent group of players, but also because Naignouma Coulibaly is playing her best basketball with her national team.
There is plenty of action to follow on Day 1 with Uganda and Gabon opening the AfroBasket Women 2015.
In a North African rivalry between Algeria and Egypt, the winner of that contest may see their Group B chances increased to advance to the Quarter-Finals, while Nigeria will face off Guinea and South Africa will go against Mali.
Later on Thursday, hosts Cameroon will take on Mozambique and two former Africa champions Senegal and Angola will close the day’s action..
Obviously, Angola, who won the last two editions of the tournament and hold an AfroBasket Women 14-game winning streak, are the team to beat.
The Angolans, who await a FIBA decision to clear US-born point guard Italee Lucas - who acquired Angola citizenship - to play for them, aim at winning a three-peat, but ten-time African champions Senegal are set to be their fiercest opponents.
Senegal, who last won the tournament in 2009, arrived in Yaounde with a number of veteran players in their roster, and seem prepared to do whatever it takes to win the trophy again.
However, playing consistent and competitive basketball in the Group Phase should be crucial for Moustapha Gaye’s team aspirations in the tournament.
There are so many challenges at stake in the tournament, but, probably no one is bigger than hosts Cameroon trying to win their first-ever African title.
After all, Cameroon might still be haunted by the fact that tournament hosts - with the exception of Canada who won the FIBA Americas - haven't won a single FIBA Championship this year.
Last week Cameroon were eliminated by Angola in the Quarter-Finals of All-Africa Games, and looking back at their recent performances, including the FIBA Africa Zone 4 qualifier, they are yet to find a necessary rhythm to win a championship.
However, Alain Zedong, who masterminded the team to a fourth-place at AfroBasket Women 2013 - seems skilled enough to put his team in position to succeed.
As for Nigeria, who beat Angola in the Semi-Finals but were outplayed by Mali in the Final of the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, they are capable of reaching the last four, but they seem worryingly inconsistent.
Scott Nnaji’s team aim at winning their first AfroBasket Women title since 2005, but playmaker Sarah Ogoke should need a lot more support, and Nigeria's front-court will need to step up to win the championship.
All twelve teams will be steered by locals, and throughout the Group Phase, AfroBasket Women fans and followers will be presented with six games per day, although there will be two days of rest.
Here are the teams and the groups for the AfroBasket Women 2015:
Group A: Cameroon, Mozambique, Mali, Uganda, South Africa and Gabon.
Group B: Senegal, Angola, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria and Guinea.