MAPUTO (AfroBasket 2015) - In the lead-up to the AfroBasket 2015, we take a closer look at all 16 participating national teams competing in the championship running from 19-30 August.
FIBA Ranking Men: 66th
Last participation in the AfroBasket: 2013 (2 wins, 3 defeats; 11th place)
Best result in the history of the AfroBasket: Fifth place in 1983
Qualified for AfroBasket 2015 - Two wins over Botswana in FIBA Africa Zone 6 Group J
They traveled to Botswana's capital of Gaborone with a 21-point advantage from the first-leg of FIBA Africa Zone 6 Group J qualifier played in Maputo to close out the series and secure qualification for this year’s AfroBasket.
However, it has been over three decades since Mozambique last accomplished their best result in African basketball history.
Back in the 1983, they collected 3 victories and two defeats, but, despite their positive win-loss ratio they were denied a place in Semi-Finals, having finished fifth.
Mozambique have become a competitive team along the years, but for some reason they tend to fall short when it matters most.
At AfroBasket 2013, they started up with an encouraging win over the Central African Republic. In Day 2, they led Angola 38-37 at half-time, but were unable to avoid a 91-73 defeat.
They closed out their campaign with a 78-56 victory over Algeria, but a 2-3 overall record was not enough to improve their 10th-place accomplished in 2011 in Madagascar.
Meanwhile, Francisco Mabjaia, the chairman of Mozambique Basketball Federation, has recently noted that they “are targeting to finish between fifth and eight-place in Tunisia."
Key Player: Mozambique will need their most experienced players to step up against Angola, Morocco and Senegal in Group B, and none better than a pair of veterans to do so.
Both Octavio Magolico and Custodio Muchate know what the competition is made of, especially after competing in five consecutive African championships.
Magolico, a 2.00m center, has faced the African champions Angolans in four African Championships since he made his senior national team debut in 2005, and that experience may be valuable for his team.
In a recent interview he described Mozambique’s potential this way: “I know the Angolan team well. They are good, but we are more talented than them.”
The 32-year-old has led Mozambique in scoring and rebounding at AfroBasket 2013.
Sorely Missed: It remains to be seen how Mozambique will perform in a big stage such as the AfroBasket 2015 without Silvio Letela, a three-point specialist who captained the Southern Africans over the course of the past few years.
In one of his best performances with the Mozambique jersey in Abidjan, Letela was a one-man show against Angola, making four of his eight three-point attempts to finish with a team-high 12 points.
Rising Star: For good reasons, Pio Matos is the man of the moment in Mozambique’s basketball.
More than a pivotal piece for the Mozambique’s new champions Desportivo de Maputo, who reached the final as underdogs against star-studded Ferroviario de Maputo, the 24-year-old was also named the MVP of the competition.
Despite his young age, the 1.86m point guard has emerged as a potential team leader for Mozambique.
In an interview with FIBA.com, Pio, who is set to appear in his fourth consecutive African championship, reminded that: "It is time to move on, go there [Tunisia 2015], compete and win as many as possible.”
Outlook: Here is a small lineup type of team that likes to play in fast-break. But in order to succeed, the Mozambicans will need to move the ball a lot better and improve their shooting, and newly re-appointed head coach Spaniard Inaki Garcia seems the man to reshape Mozambique’s game.
Garcia, who the took over in May, has taken his team to Spain for a two-week training camp, and chose Turkey for the remainder of their preparations.
In just six words: Aiming best result in two decades