BAMAKO (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - It has been 10 years since Mali’s first and only appearance at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. And the African nation is out to show in Cairo this summer just how much they have progressed since then.
"Back in 2007, Mali finished near the bottom of the final standings. Ten years later we are back at the world stage and we have to show that Malian basketball has made a great progress."
The West African country has become one of the top nations in African basketball at the youth levels. Mali finished in the top three in three of the four FIBA U16 African Championship and advanced to the Semi-Finals of the FIBA U18 African Championship in seven of the last nine editions.
Back in 2007, Mali finished near the bottom of the final standings. Ten years later we are back at the world stage and we have to show that Malian basketball has made a great progress." - Kante
"I think that Mali's second appearance at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup will have a positive impact on the men's basketball in the country. This will allow these young players to achieve more experience and be ready for the senior national team," Kante added.
For their second U19 spectacle, Mali have been drawn into Group C alongside with Canada, Japan and Spain.
"I think it's good for us, even though it will not be an easy task," Kante said of the draw. "It's a pretty tough group and none of the four teams is there by chance. But we’re going to fight for a better group stage finish."
About Canada, the coach said: "I don't have much information about Canadian basketball. I only know that it is a neighbouring country of the United States with an NBA franchise (Toronto Raptors). And I think logically they will play in a similar style as the US teams."
Kante continued about the other opponents: "I know more about Spain because I often watch games of the country’s national league. Spain is one the best countries in Europe and facing them will be tough. Japan is one of the Asia powerhouses and I think we have to pay attention to this type of country because of their regularity of appearing at international tournaments."
Kante said the next couple of months will come down to obtaining as much advance information about the other teams as possible.
"I am now trying to get information about our opponents in order to be ready when the action tips off in Cairo."