MINNEAPOLIS (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Gorgui Dieng believes that had he played for Senegal in last July's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila, his country would have made it to the Rio Olympics. However, it's the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 that he is getting focused on.
Although Senegal came up highly competitive against Canada and Turkey in the OQT they fell short in the Group Phase, and the dream of playing in the Olympics disappeared in a blink of an eye.
For Dieng, the OQT left a sense of unfinished business.
“If I had gone to that tournament [OQT], we would have had a chance. But you never know, you know. This year, if we qualify for the AfroBasket , I am sure that things will go well," he noted to FIBA.com.
If all goes according to plan, the man who led all players in scoring with 22.9 points per game in last year's FIBA AfroBasket where Senegal finished in 4th-Place, feels he will do everything in his power to give his country their first continental trophy in two decades.
Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic Congo, is the place that Dieng believes Senegal will turn a new chapter in their basketball.
“If everybody can make it to the tournament, and everybody comes to the national team, we can win it," the 2.11m center said, adding: "If I am going to play, it’s to win it. I am not going to go there and just play. I want to go and win it all. It’s as simple as that."
Senegal currently rank as the No.4 team on the continent of Africa, have plenty of talented players in competitive leagues around but they often pay the price for never playing together at the right time. There are always two or key players missing for different reasons.
The Western Africans have received plaudits for their competitiveness and talent, while others argue that the team's chemistry could be a lot better.
Even Dieng feels the group must think about their country first.
“We all need to just come back and play for the national team and keep being proud of fighting for our country. Putting our egos aside and play like a team so we put all the chances on our side to win trophies soon," Dieng noted.
With African basketball experiencing a new reality - Nigeria as new champions and Tunisia currently ranked as No.2 team - the Kebemer native can't wait for FIBA Africa Zone 2 qualifiers to begin early next year.
Although he hasn't confirmed if he will play in the qualifiers, Dieng seems to think that Senegal will make it to Brazzaville.
“I would like to come play for the national team, I will try everything I can to join my teammates and play at my best level. This year  should be the year where everybody is going to come, stick together and try to win it," he reassured.
Asked about the impact of playing for his country to his NBA career, Dieng replied: "You get in better shape, you get better when you are playing. And playing in the summer with the national team is a bonus. Playing for the national team during the summer is a great preparation for the training camp of the NBA season too. When the season starts, you are just good to go."