CAIRO (2016 FIBA Africa U18 Championship) - Egypt have won three of the last four FIBA Africa U18 Championships, and Egyptian center Seifeldin Elsandily expects his team to make it four out of five this summer in Rwanda.
"We are preparing really well and I think we will have a very strong performance. We will win the Africa Championship," Elsandily said.
The Egyptians will go into the 2016 FIBA Africa U18 Championship as the favourites. Head coach Branislav Jemc and the Federation are doing all they can to get the team ready. Egypt received an invitation to the biennial Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST) in March, which Jemc used as an eye-opener for his team bound for the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship while also giving his leaders of the U18 team a chance to play against high level competition.
We are preparing really well and I think we will have a very strong performance. We will win the Africa Championship. - Elsandily
"It was a very good experience to play against these great teams and get ready for the FIBA Africa U18 Championship," said Elsandily, who led Egypt in scoring (14.2 points) and rebounding (8.2 rebounds) at the tournament in Germany.
The Egyptian team only had three players in the age group (1998) with the rest being 1999 and 2000-born players to prepare for the U17 World Championships. But 1998-born Omar Farag also stepped up as a leader at the AST as he will be needed in Rwanda, scoring 12.2 points to go with 4.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals.
The youngsters are not the only ones who learned from playing - and losing all six games - against Greece, France, China, Italy, United States and Argentina.
"We learned that other teams are very strong and we have to play good defence and good offence. We have to practice a lot to be like them, but we competed against them," Elsandily said of the tournament.
Egypt go into the FIBA Africa U18 Championship, which runs from 22-31 July, looking to repeat their title. But they also have the comfort of knowing they don't need to qualify for the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship, since Egypt are hosting it.
"It means everything to be hosting the U19s. It's the best thing that has happened to basketball in Egypt," Elsandily said.
It's also another sign that Egypt is getting more serious about basketball - just like 21-year-old Anas Mahmoud playing NCAA powers Louisville.
"It's a huge thing. All Egyptians are proud of him. He's a good role model for Egyptian basketball players," Elsandily said.
"We are changing our lifestyle in basketball and gaining respect."