LUANDA (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - Angola have long been a super power in African basketball. But the southern African country has lagged behind a bit at the youth levels. With their return to the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, the Angolans feel they are back where they belong.
Angola went undefeated in winning the FIBA U18 African Championship 2016 for their first continental title since 1988 after not even reaching the final since 2008. That meant Angola were heading to the U19 global spectacle for the first time since 2009.
"Back in 2013, we thought that it was about time to relaunch our youth national teams internationally. At the time we felt that we were losing ground to teams like Mali and Egypt. So, qualifying for Cairo 2017 is the result of our determination to compete against the best teams in the world, where we believe we belong."
And Silva doesn't expect it will take another eight years for Angola to get back to the U19 highlight.
"Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new chapter in our basketball history."
The federation has recognised that the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup is an extremely valuable tournament in getting their young talents ready to move into the senior national team level while facing the best teams outside of Africa.
"This is the last opportunity for most of these kids to play youth high-level basketball. It's also important to some of them to get prepared to represent the senior team," Silva said. "Our men's national team is currently experiencing a generational transition process so it's important that these young men get used to playing at high level in order to re-establish our senior team."
Angola are currently ranked 29th in the FIBA youth world rankings as the second team from Africa behind Egypt and looking up to nations like Chinese Taipei, Japan and Mexico and just one spot ahead of Mali.
"Over the past few years, we felt that our FIBA youth rankings didn’t reflect what we aspire as a basketball nation. Now, that this group of players won two straight African championships and qualified for the U19 we feel that we are on the right path again," Silva said.
"Qualifying for Cairo 2017 is the result of our determination to compete against the best teams in the world, where we believe we belong."Silva
At the same time, the coach knows Angola face a real test in Cairo from July 1-9 as they were drawn into Group D with two-time reigning champions United States, U18 Asian champions Iran and Italy, who took third place at the FIBA U18 European Championship.
"Let's be honest, this is not an easy draw for us," Silva said. "We are talking about facing the USA, who have won six titles in the competition. We faced the Americans at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2014 - I was in charge of our team - and it was our toughest game in the tournament. But that's what the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup is all about. It's a competition where we can learn because you play against top teams."
Angola will be making their sixth appearance at the U19 tournament and have placed either 13th or 14th in the previous five showings.
"We are going to Cairo to compete," Silva said. "It will be difficult but we like being in the position that we are now. This is a group of players that loves competing and we’ll make sure to give them a chance of coming home with the best result possible."
Just being back at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup is the first step - being back where they feel they belong.