LUANDA (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Angola missed out on automatic qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics but veteran Leonel Paulo believes there is no reason for panic.
In an interview with FIBA.com, the 1.97m forward warned that the 11-time African champions should not be ruled out from reaching next summer's Games in Brazil just yet. He also gave his backing to FIBA's new system of competition which comes into effect in 2017.
This past August, they overcame adversity time and again to reach the AfroBasket 2015 Final. Unfortunately, they lost 74-65 to Nigeria in the title game which represented their best chance of a direct return to the Olympics.
However, Paulo is among those believing that Angola can re-emerge next summer when they compete in one of the three FIBA Olympic Qua
"Regardless of where the tournament is going to be, we know it's going to be tough for us, but it won't be impossible to qualify," Paulo told FIBA.com.
"Canada, Greece, France, Russia... Everybody wants to grab those three places and that makes the competition extremely tough.
"But we are experienced enough to compete against those teams and we are going to be ready."
It's been seven years since Angola last played at the Olympics, and Paulo - a member of the team that represented the Africa continent at the 2008 Beijing Games, recalls the experience fondly.
"That is an experience that any athlete wants to live," he said.
"If I am selected, I'll do everything in my power to help my country advance to the Olympics from the OQT."
But until that moment comes, the talk of the moment is about Nigeria's emergence as one of Africa's top competitors.
Paulo praised Nigeria for winning their first-ever continental title, but is upbeat that his country remains Africa's best.
"Had we beaten Nigeria in the Final, certainly nobody would be asking whether this was the end of Angola’s dominance in Africa," he said.
"It was one of those days when nothing worked out for us.
"It was Nigeria's first win against Angola in more than three decades [in FIBA competition]. It was just one bad day for us.
"But Nigeria were the deserving winner of the tournament.
"Of course we hope to continue our winning run. Right now it is time for us to regroup and improve everything we have done so far."
We are still the number one team on our continent - Paulo
The 29-year-old also looks forward to the implementation in two years time of FIBA's new system of competition and the opportunities it will present him and Angola.
As of 2017, AfroBasket will be held every four years - instead of every two years - with qualification for the competition taking place during four windows over the course of 15 months.
Under the new system, teams will play home and away games in order to qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The best African team at FIBA's flagship event will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games. More teams from the continent will have the opportunity of chasing their Olympic dream through four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.
In late 2019, a 15-month qualification period consisting of four windows will begin for the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket Cup.
We are going to have full house when the national team plays the qualifiers at home. - Paulo
For Paulo, the new competition system will give him a chance of playing for Angola for the first time in his own country.
Angola last played an official game on home soil in 2007, when the country hosted that year's edition of AfroBasket.
Paulo was not part of the team but has no doubt that playing at home for the national team will be special.
"I am sure it will be good for us because we are a basketball-loving country and our fans need to see us playing more often at home," he explained.
"For example, last season's final series of the Angolan League involved Petro de Luanda and Libolo. Even though Libolo doesn't have a big fan-base, there were record crowds for the games.
"As for the qualifiers for the AfroBasket, I am not sure about other national teams, but for us it will be good, considering that most of our players play in Angola. If we need to stop the league for a week, we are going to do so without major disruptions."