BRAZZAVILLE (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) Next year’s FIBA AfroBasket in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, will be a special occasion for a number of big names of African basketball.
While Nigeria are expected to go after a second straight FIBA AfroBasket title, teams like Senegal, Cameroon, Tunisia and Angola have self-proclaimed contenders.
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Although the FIBA Africa’s flagship tournament won’t happen until next August, that hasn’t prevented title chasers from dreaming of the day of coronation.
A key member of the Senegalese national team that finished in 4th-Place at FIBA AfroBasket 2015, Minnesota Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng is looking to help his country win a first continental trophy in two decades.
Although he seemed cautious in a recent interview with FIBA.com, Dieng recalled that there is only one goal for Senegal.
"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."
Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Mbah a Moute and Tunisia’s Salah Mejri are hoping to retire from their national teams after the Brazzaville showpiece.
But neither wants to call it a day without Africa’s top prize around the neck.
“That’s my dream,” said Mbah a Moute, who made his national team debut almost a decade ago. “Since 2007, I have been dreaming about it. I haven’t reached that goal yet but for the guys that I started playing with in the national team and myself, I would like to win that title. I hope 2017 will be our year. We are going to give our best. The tournament is going to be very competitive,” added the Los Angeles Clippers forward.
In the meantime, Mejri, the MVP of FIBA AfroBasket 2011, insists Brazzaville “is most likely going to be my last AfroBasket with my national team as I will be a bit old for the one after the 2017 edition.”
A one-time winner of FIBA AfropBasket, Mejri hopes to be ready to compete for a second Africa title.
"That is a goal for me, that is for sure," he said. "We have a great opportunity at FIBA AfroBasket 2017. The most important [thing] is to be healthy again and play well in the next competitions.”