PRAIA (AfroBasket 2015) - As Walter 'Edy' Tavares took to his Instagram account over the weekend to justify his withdrawal from Cape Verde's national team ahead of AfroBasket 2015, Rodrigo Mascarenhas is racing against the clock to fill the power-forward/center position for the islanders.
Tavares, a second-round pick in last year's NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, has become the first native of the island to sign a contract with an NBA team, and as a result he chose to spend the entire summer improving his game stateside.
Writing in his native creole language, Tavares said: "I decided to withdrawal the team for AfroBasket because I am focused to adapt [to the NBA] the quickest possible way, and I am working very hard for it.
"I appreciate the understanding from Kitana [Cabral] - (chairman of Cape Verde Basketball Federation), coaching staff and my teammates.
It wasn’t a light decision to take because I am proud to play for Cape Verde. - Tavares
Meanwhile, 1.99m power forward Mascarenhas, who coached Cape Verde throughout the qualifiers in February, is returning from his international retirement to get ready for his fourth AfroBasket appearance.
The 2015 edition of FIBA's flagship event will take place in Tunisia from 19-30 August.
It is a reunion time for Mascarenhas, who played for Cape Verde head coach Magalhaes for a significant part of his career, both in Angola and Portugal.
"Right now, I am just trying to get in shape to compete again," the 35-year-old told FIBA.com.
Cape Verde have been drawn in Group D along with Cote d'Ivoire, Algeria and AfroBasket debutants Zimbabwe.
The objective, Mascarenhas insists, is to repeat or improve their third-place accomplished in 2007.
Two years ago, Cape Verde fell short in the Quarter-Finals against Egypt, but they are positive looking ahead to the 16-team event which tips off in 16 days.
I believe we'll have a great AfroBasket campaign. - Mascarenhas
"We have a good group of players. It's a shame that 'Edy' [Tavares] can’t join us, but we'll compete hard.
Mascarenhas has averaged 9.2 points per game for Cape Verde, however, it is his rebounding ability that makes him a tough competitor. He has 8.3 boards per game when playing for the national team.