BAMAKO (FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017) - In the lead-up to the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017, we take a closer look at all 12 participating teams competing in the championship running from August 18-27 in Bamako, Mali.
NIKE FIBA World Ranking: 23th
Last participation at FIBA Women's AfroBasket: 2015 (6 wins, 2 losses; 5th place)
Best results in the history of FIBA Women's AfroBasket: African champions in 2007; runners-up in 2009, and third-place in 1978 and 2011.
Qualified for FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017: Qualified as hosts of the tournament.
History/Qualification: As a self-proclaimed basketball nation, Mali have participated - with a relative success - in all eight editions of the African Championship dating back to 1997.
Undoubtedly, winning the 2007 edition of the FIBA Women's AfroBasket against hosts Senegal ranks as Mali's biggest achievement, especially as it led to their first-ever Olympics appearance the following year in Beijing, China.
Inspired by their continental champions status, Mali attempted to become the second African team - after Nigeria - to defend their title two years later, but Senegal came up stronger, claiming the 2009 trophy in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
However, the worst was still to come. As hosts of the 2011 African Championship, everything looked promising for Mali who started with six straight wins in as many games. Somehow, Angola came out of nowhere ending Mali's dream in the Semi-Finals.
Nevertheless, Mali fought back to claiming a Third-Place thanks to a 71-62 victory over Nigeria.
What followed next was a misfortune of events. Injuries affecting key players in critical moments of the competition have played a part in Mali's latest results.
Back in 2013, Djene Diawara was leading the tournament in scoring with 23 points per game - three games into the competition - when she suffered a knee injury that ruled her out for the rest of the event. They struggled to find a replacement and in the process, Mali ended up in Fifth-Place.
No one really knows what the outcome would have been if Nassira Traore had not suffered a tournament-ending knee injury, during the 2015 FIBA Women's AfroBasket Quarter-Finals against eventual champions Senegal.
Mali ended up being thumped, however, it needs to be said that Mali could have been done a lot better than that.
Key players: Djenebou Sissoko and Naignouma Coulibaly - two emblematic players - are set to play together for the first time since 2011. These are two physical players with many FIBA EuropCup games under the belt.
Rising Star: Djeneba N'Diaye, three years after being crowned Africa’s best player at FIBA U18 Women's African Championship 2014, in which Mali won the continental title - the Djoliba Athletic Club ace remains in limelight. The 20-year-old has become a regular with the senior team. And she was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2016 Mali National Championship.
Outlook: Mali face a challenge for the ages. They aim to become the first host country to win the tournament since Nigeria did in 2005.
Senegal, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Cameroon have hosted the last six editions of the tournament, and all failed to reach the top of the podium. Can Mali do it?
Possible Outcome: They are self-proclaim title contender. Nevertheless, they have all tools to reach the Final.