COTONOU (FIBA Africa Champions Cup Women 2015) – Senegal’s ace Aya Traore is set to return to action, a month after helping her country win the AfroBasket Women 2015, and punch the only automatic place on offer for Africa teams for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
But before the Most Valuable Player at AfroBasket Women 2015 held in Yaounde, Cameroon, head to Rio, she has some more silverware to accomplish on African soil.
Traore and First Bank will take to the court on Thursday in Cotonou, Benin, to battle it out in the Africa Champions Cup Women (ACCW) Zone 3 qualifier.
In the qualifier, which is expected to run from 4-11 November, the teams that finish first and second qualify for the 2015 ACCW finals, which is due to take place in Luanda, Angola, later this month.
The 32-year-old, who sparked Senegal at AfroBasket Women 2015 with 13 points and more than five rebounds per game, is not new to the ACCW.
Back in 2012, the 1.81m shooting guard helped Mozambique side Liga Desportiva lift the ACCW crown held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
“We are counting on Aya Traore’s experience to help our quest for a third Champions Cup title,” said First Bank newly appointed coach Peter Ahmedu.
“But first [we need] to get out of the Zone qualifier.“
Talking to to FIBA.com, Traore said she hopes to bring her experience "and do whatever I can to help the team be successful."
First Bank last won an ACCW title in 2009, and this time around Ahmedu is looking to Traore’s talent to bring the trophy back to Nigeria.
A year ago, in the ACCW's Third-Place Game, First Bank - who won the ACCW in 2003 and 2009 - lost to hosts Club Sportif Sfaxien (CSS), 75-61 in Sfax, Tunisia.
At the time, First Bank lined up with some Nigeria international including Sarah Ogoke, Joyce Ekworomadu, Ndidi Madu and Priscilla Udeaja.
This time, the Nigeria crossed the Western African borders to bring in Traore.
For First Bank, there is nothing like signing the best athletes on the continent. And Traore who headlined the All-Tournament team at AfroBasket Women 2015 is just an example of the Nigerians ambition.
And, Ahmedu has vowed that his team will surpass that feat this time.
“Our target is to qualify from the zone and go on to prove a point that we are among the top clubs in Africa at the final round in Angola,” Ahmedu noted.