SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda’s African Message) - If Egypt can win this year's FIBA Africa U18 Championships, they will become the greatest Africa national team of the last decade at youth level.
The FIBA Africa U18 Champions will take place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 22-31 July, and 11 national teams from across the African continent will look to deny Egypt their fourth title in the last five editions of the competition.
Back in 2010, Egypt took Kigali by storm, compiling a 6-1 record. Now, they are back in the Rwandese capital looking to remind everyone who rules Africa at youth level.
An extra motivation for the remaining 11 teams comes from the fact that Africa has a chance of being represented - for the first-time ever - by three national teams at a world championship.
As host of next summer's FIBA U19 World Championship, Egypt are already qualified, leaving the door open for two other teams.
The inevitable questions now are: Can anyone stop Egypt from reaching the top step of the podium in Kigali? Who can fill the other two spots for the World Championship?
Well, a number of teams - including Mali, Tunisia, and Angola - seem to be competitive enough to give Egypt a hard time, but the North Africans - who became the dominant force in Africa in recent years - remain unparalleled when it comes to the youth basketball in Africa.
So, I feel that Mali, Tunisia and Angola have realistic chances of advancing to Cairo 2017.
U18 hosts Rwanda have set bold goals by making the Semi-Finals their aim, and we shouldn't rule them out.
In the past, many teams have withdrawn from the competition with just a day or two before it started, but if all 12 teams turn up, then Rwanda 2016 will be a major success. After all, this is the competition where future stars are born. This is the competition where most players experience international competition for the first time.
Remember Serge Ibaka making a splash at the 2006 FIBA Africa U18 Championship in Durban, South Africa while playing for his native Republic of Congo?
Knowing that the world will be watching, players will be looking at the competition as an exit to reach stardom.
Ibaka's case is the clear example of the relevance of FIBA Africa's U18. Before he joined the Spanish national team, Ibaka was just an ordinary Congolese enjoying the game os basketball, but his talent and tenacity spoke louder, and he became the player we all know.
Certainly, there will be a number of Ibakas in the making in Kigali.
Will there be a surprise in Kigali? If so, who will it be?
List of the national teams qualified for the 2016 FIBA Africa U18 Championship in Kigali, Rwanda: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Mali, hosts Rwanda, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Let the battle begin.