TARBES (2016 Rio Olympics) - Senegal point guard Xane D'Almeida starred at AfroBasket 2015, but it is at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs) that he hopes to make a bigger impact.
The Western Africans opened their African championship campaign with five wins in a row but ended up losing the final two games.
And, as a result they missed out on the only automatic qualifying place on offer for African teams for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but they have a second by participating in one of the three OQTs.
There are only three places at stake in the 18-team OQTs, but D'Almeida who led all players at AfroBasket 2015 with 7.4 assists per game, insists they are competitive enough to dream big.
Senegal last competed in the Olympics back in 1980.
Since then, they have claimed one AfroBasket title (1997), finished runners-up on three occasions (1992, 1995 and 2005), but they have come up short of making their return at the Olympics through the years.
However, D'Almeida feels there is light at the end of the tunnel for Senegal.
"If the (Senegal Basketball) Federation wants us to do well and qualify for the Olympics, they should give us the necessary means to do so, and that includes a good preparation, because we are not going to the Olympic Qualifier Tournament just to make numbers," D'Almeida said.
Of course we still don’t know where the OQT will take place, which teams we will be facing, but one thing is certain: we have the same chances of qualifying for the Olympics as any other team involved in the qualifiers. - D'Almeida
Asked what makes him upbeat about Senegal's chances at the OQTs, D'Almeida replied: "We played European and Asian teams in the (2014 FIBA Basketball) World Cup, we also competed hard at AfroBasket 2015. Right now we have a solid group of players capable of competing against any team in the world, we just need a decent preparation and organisation and I am sure we’ll do well in the OQT."
Looking back at Senegal's AfroBasket 2015 campaign, they looked like real title contenders early in the competition, especially after beating then defending champions Angola in the Group Phase.
But, gradually the team's rotation became an issue.
And with Mouhammad Faye being sent home, Senegal saw their options significantly reduced.
"We could have done a lot better, that's clearly the biggest lesson we learnt from the tournament. A lot of things should have been handled differently," D'Almeida noted. "We competed with only seven or eight players for most of the tournament, and that's not good enough for a tough competition such as the AfroBasket.
"By the time we reached the Final Phase of the competition, the team looked tired and that shouldn't have happened. No one should have played more than 30 minutes."
But D'Almeida, Gorgui Dieng and Antoine Mendy spent more than 40 minutes on the court in the 88-79 overtime Semi-Final defeat to Nigeria.
"I think our coach didn't trust some of the 12 players and that's the reason we used only eight players," the 1.83m playmaker said. "We were one of the best teams in the tournament, but small details spoiled our expectations to win the competition.
"In fairness, I have seen Nigeria play many times and they didn't play with their best players in Tunisia, but they had a good team. But their head coach (Will Voigt) with his team's rotation made a tremendous difference. I saw (Al Farouq) Aminu sat on the bench so many times, but that didn't affect the team."
FIBA's Executive Committee will decide the host countries of the OQTs on Tuesday 19 January. The draw for the three tournaments will follow a week later.
In the meantime, D'Almeida will look to extend his good run of form for Union Tarbes Basket in France's Nationale Masculine 1, having averaged 14 points per game in nine contests.