BAMAKO (FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017) - Mali's Aissata Boubacar Maiga feels she's in a dream world when thinking about her home nation getting to host FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017.
Talking to FIBA.com about her ambitions at the 12-team event, the 1.68m guard said: "The FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017 will take place in Bamako and I think it's a great honor for our country. I'm working hard to make it on the final roster and I hope I can help the team win a second continental crown."
What happened back in 2011 is behind us as we must move forward. - Maiga
Mali hosted the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2011 but only finished third after a 56-51 loss to eventual champions Angola in the Semi-Finals. But this time around, Maiga believes they can play the title game.
"What happened back in 2011 is behind us as we must move forward. We have quality and experienced players but we need to stay focused and mentally strong if we want to reach the top step of the podium. This will not be an easy task but we have what it takes to win on our home soil," the 25-year-old guard explained.
Maiga, who plies her trade with Moroccan side FUS of Rabat, one of the leading sides in the country's women's league, noted that "the country has one of the best leagues of the region in terms of competitiveness and I think it's the best place to prepare for FIBA Women's AfroBasket."
Recalling her first time playing for the national team, Maiga said: "I put on the national team jersey for the first time back in 2008. I was 16 and it was a big honor for me as the coaching crew decided to make me captain of the team.
"I then joined the senior team in 2009 for the FIBA Women's AfroBasket in Madagascar. I was very happy to play along with my older sister Hamchetou Maiga. Together, we put in a lot of effort for our country on the international stage including at the FIBA Women's AfroBasket in 2009 and 2011 as well as the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2010."
When asked who is her role model in the basketball world, she said she did not have to look very far.
"It's obvious that Hamchetou is my role model as she is for many young players on the African continent. She was crowned WNBA champion with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005. Two years later, she led Mali to a FIBA Women's AfroBasket title in Dakar and was named MVP of the tournament," the Bamako native explained.