PRAIA (AfroBasket) - Cape Verde's ace Ivan Almeida has returned to his national team for AfroBasket 2015.
On Tuesday, the 1.99m guard/forward joined newly-appointed head coach Luis Magalhaes and the rest of the team who are currently holding a training camp in Praia ahead of next month's African Championship in Tunisia (19-30 August).
With his insurance coverage finally resolved the 26-year-old is ready to make his comeback for his country.
Right now, things are different, and in his words, he just wants "to represent my country".
Although the islanders - under former head coach Alex Nwora - beat Nigeria in the classification games, it was the 74-73 Quarter-Final defeat to Egypt that spoiled the team's aspirations in 2013.
They were denied a place in the last four, but claimed an honourable sixth-place.
Now, it could be different, and Almeida - who has just agreed terms with Chorale Roanne in the French second tier - feels he could contribute for the "Hammer Sharks", the nickname given to Cape Verde's national team.
Coach Magalhaes got in touch, we talked a lot, and I want to play for my country. - Almeida
Almeida will have a chance to work with Magalhaes, who he looked up to during his tenure with Ovarense in the Portuguese league.
Almeida recalled: "I was in the junior team and he was the head coach of the senior team. I practiced with him only a few times, but it would be great to work with him with Cape Verde national team."
Almeida last played at AfroBasket in 2009 in Tripoli, Libya, but the prospect of participating in Africa's elite basketball tournament again holds a lot of significance for him.
"We should focus on one game at a time and try to promote the name of the country worldwide. That's one thing that I am ready to fight for.
"Obviously 2009 was a good experience for me as a player even though I didn't play as much as I would have loved to. But I have learned from the experience."
At AfroBasket 2015, Cape Verde will face Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Zimbabwe in Group D.
Cote d’Ivoire is the strongest team in the group and we are the underdogs. But we’ll compete. - Almeida
What does Almeida make of Cape Verde's preliminary squad?
"It is a strong group of players no doubt about it, but I am not sure whether everyone will be available," he pointed out.
Still, Almeida feels that a couple of players could boost their chances in the tournament, not only because of their quality as players, but also because of their previous AfroBasket experience.
"Jeff [Xavier] could become a massive addition for us, and Edy Tavares could do the job near the basket," he said.
However, neither Xavier - who led all scorers at AfroBasket 2009 and had an eye-catching performance at 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens, Greece - nor Tavares, a 2.21m center who has signed for the Atlanta Hawks, have reported to the team yet.
Asked to pick a candidate to win this year's AfroBasket, Almeida did not hesitate to choose the 11-time African champions Angola.
"I still feel Angola is the strongest team in the championship, and could be one of the finalists. Even with the injuries affecting some players, they are too experienced in African basketball," he said.