ORLEANS (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Senegal's Antoine Mendy has not given up on his dream of playing at the 2016 Olympic Games.
After suggestions indicated the 1.99m forward was bringing his national team career to a close, Mendy made sure to clarify that he is open to wearing the Senegal jersey again in the future.
However, an 88-79 Semi-Final defeat to eventual champions Nigeria ended Senegal's dream of securing the only automatic spot on offer for African teams for Rio 2016 Games.
The 32-year-old, who plays for Orleans in France topflight, feels they missed a superb opportunity to make history.
With the scored tied at 76 and eight seconds left to play in regulation, Mendy received an inbound pass and attempted a three-pointer but missed.
In the overtime, Nigeria showed a lot more grit, outscoring Senegal 8-3 to reach the final of AfroBasket for the first time since 2003.
The Senegalese, who opened the tournament with five wins in a row, fought back and lined up an opportunity to repeat the third-place finish achieved at AfroBasket 2013, but ultimately fell short against hosts Tunisia in the Third-Place Game.
Coach Cheikh Sarr's team finished fourth and as result secured a spot for one of the three 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).
Senegal last played in the Olympics in 1980.
And, if things go according to plan, Mendy will be a key piece for Senegal at the OQT.
"It is a tough competition for us because of the quality of the teams from Europe and Asia," he told FIBA.com.
"Even if we don't qualify for the Olympics, this type of tournament is important for us as it helps us evolve as a national team.
We can’t say we have no chances because we have to try. We have good players, we can compete, it is all about planning everything professional and correctly, and we can do well. - Mendy
"I am available to help my country if they need me."
Although he is yet to hear from the Senegalese Basketball Federation about the OQT, Mendy says they will get in touch in due course to explain us the plan for the tournament.
With the exception of Nigeria, no other African team has ever advanced to the Olympics from the OQT.
Angola, Tunisia and Senegal will be next African teams trying to rewrite the tournament history.
"Any athlete, regardless of being professional or not, dreams to participate in the Olympics," Mendy recalled.
Our Olympic dream is still alive, and we need to keep fighting to reach that goal. - Mendy
Senegal looked really good early in the competition, but those final seconds of the regulation against Nigeria changed Senegal's course to glory.
"I still keep thinking about that moment," the native of Paris noted.
"We could have reached the Final if we executed our game plan in the last 23 seconds [in the regulation]. It hurts to think about it, but I have moved on now, and I can deal with the loss.
"Of course we missed him," Mendy said of Mouhammad Faye who was suspended from the Federation and sent home early in the competition.
"He has been an influential player over the past few years. But I can't say for sure whether we would have won the championship with Faye in the team as we managed to stick together. We have to move on and plan the OQT."
Despite still carrying the pain of the Semi-Final loss, Mendy did have great moments in Tunisia.
Beating Angola 74-73 in the Group Phase with a tip-in in the dying seconds and getting mobbed by fans and teammates ranks among the highlights of his career.
"It was not an Antoine Mendy win against Angola," he said. "It was a win of 13 million Senegalese citizens. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it. That is one of the moments that I will remember for a very long time because that is the beauty of the basketball game."
Asked how he can help Senegal at the OQT, Mendy replied: "Basketball is a team sport, and it is not about how I can carry the team. The game is about togetherness. If a teams plays together the chances of winning are much bigger."
As for his club career, Mendy and the Orleans crew keep growing in confidence.
After losing their first two games, they currently enjoy a three-game winning streak.
"Looking good for us now," he said. "As a new member of the team, teammates and coaching staff keep making me comfortable, and I continue to integrate in the team's chemistry."