BAMAKO (2016 FIBA Africa U18 Championship) - The 2016 FIBA Africa U18 Championship is just around the corner and Kaba Kante, the head coach of Mali's team, has his sights set on reaching the top step of the podium.
The 12-team tournament will take place from 22-31 July in the Rwandan capital city of Kigali where Mali will certainly be among the title contenders.
Kante, who took away positive lessons from the last edition of the championship, is eager to win the title this year.
"Our target is to win the title," he told FIBA.com. "And that is why we have started our preparations earlier than usual with a 20 player-squad. The two training camps we had in December 2015 and in April have allowed us to discover new faces who could join the core of team."
For the upcoming tournament, Mali could rely on players including Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, Oumar Kanoute and Issa Samake who all featured at the 2013 FIBA Africa U16 Championship and are now playing high school basketball in the United States.
The experience of this group of players could be a great asset for this competition which serves as a qualifier for the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship due to take place in Egypt.
Prior to the tournament in Kigali, a number of key players - including Abdoulkarim Coulibaly, Moulaye Sissoko and Blaise Keita - are set to represent Mali at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Kante will then be able to call on them for the continental event but expects the competition to make the team will be fierce.
"We have a great number of good players and it will not be easy to choose the 12 players for the final roster as we need a most balanced team to reach our goal," he explained.
To date five countries including Mali, Egypt, Tunisia, Angola and hosts Rwanda have qualified for the 2016 FIBA Africa U18 Championship.
Seven additional countries will earn the right to take part in the event through the FIBA Africa Zone qualifiers scheduled from 16 June to 9 July 2016.