PARIS (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - Xane Dalmeida has good memories of playing at the FIBA Basketball World Cup four year ago and therefore knows first-hand how important it is for Senegal to qualify for China 2019.
"We learned a lot from our World Cup experience four years ago," the playmaker for Union Tarbes-Lourdes Pyrenees Basket, in France's third tier, told FIBA.basketball.
For Almeida, the value of playing in the World Cup extends beyond the team's results on the court.
"WE KNOW HOW BENEFICIAL THE WORLD CUP COULD BE FOR THE GROWTH OF THE GAME BACK HOME. WE WANT TO KEEP THE HABIT OF PLAYING THOSE BIG BASKETBALL NATIONS, AND HOPEFULLY, WE'LL DO BETTER IN CHINA THAN WHAT WE DID IN SPAIN IN 2014" - Dalmeida
The five tickets on offer for African nations for China 2019 are being determined in the ongoing World Cup Qualifiers. Senegal will tip off their World Cup qualifying campaign from February 23-25 in Mozambique's capital.
Although Senegal sit as No. 3 team in Africa in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike - behind Nigeria and Angola - Dalmeida warns they will not overlook hosts Mozambique, Cote d'Ivoire and the Central African Republic.
"These are good teams. Ivory Coast has a group of guys who have been playing together for a long time. The same applies to Centrafrique (Central African Republic) and Mozambique has a lot of three-point shooters," he said. "But we have to concentrate on ourselves. Our goal is not just trying to beat those teams, our goal is to qualify for the World Cup.
"We know how beneficial the World Cup could be for the growth of the game back home. We want to keep the habit of playing those big basketball nations, and hopefully, we'll do better in China than we did in Spain in 2014."
"I LOOK FORWARD TO PLAYING FOR MY COUNTRY AGAIN ON HOME SOIL BECAUSE THERE IS NO FEELING LIKE PLAYING FOR YOUR COUNTRY IN FRONT OF PEOPLE YOU IDENTITY WITH" - Dalmeida
In order to achieve their common goal, Dalmeida and his national team colleagues know all too well they have their work cut out.
"We want a place in the World Cup but first we will need to get the job done in the African Qualifiers. Everybody on our team is excited about the Qualifiers and we'll do our best not to disappoint our country," he explained.
Senegal will need to finish in the top three of Group D if they are to advance to the 12-team second round.
And, the Western Africans, who co-hosted last year's FIBA AfroBasket, will see the return of the national team on home soil in June-June for Group D's second-leg.
Dalmeida missed out on that opportunity of playing in front of a partisan crowd as he sat out the tournament through injury. But he got a sense of what playing at home is like during the Qualifiers for Africa's biggest competition in March of last year and remembers it fondly.
"I was sad not being able to play at AfroBasket  in front of our fans (due to injury). But I had played for my country in the AfroBasket Qualifiers (in March 2017), which was an unbelievable experience. I consider that to be one of the highlights of my playing career," he recalled.
"I look forward to playing for my country again on home soil because there is no feeling like playing for your country in front of people you identify with."
By the time Senegal take to the court in next month's Qualifiers, one man will notably be in the spotlight: Abdourahmane Ndiaye, who has replaced Spaniard Porfirio Fisac as Senegal's head coach.
Dalmeida shared his thoughts on the Ndiaye's mindset.
"He was my first coach in the national team. We talk at least once a week, we discuss all sort of subjects like players, the team's preparations, etc. He wants to start from zero and build a competitive and strong team. He really wants us to have a good preparation," he explained.
Asked how he feels after sitting out the last edition of the African championship, Dalmeida was quick to point that he is always ready to wear the green and yellow jersey.
"I returned from an injury two weeks ago. I feel good - yet to be 100 percent - but I feel ready to help my national team."