SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - The euphoria in Morocco's basketball community in recent times is utterly understandable.
Meanwhile, the senior men's team had failed repeatedly to progress beyond the Quarter-Finals at FIBA AfroBasket.
To see the Moroccans find themselves in their current position is refreshing to see as this has turned into a major game-changer.
Their men's national team may have climbed only one place in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike last November - to sit seventh overall in Africa - but the general feeling is that they belong among the top five teams on the continent.
Following an impressive FIBA AfroBasket 2017 campaign in which Morocco claimed an unprecedented 4th-place finish, Association Sportive (AS) Sale last month became the first local team to win the FIBA Africa Champions Cup (ACC) since Maghreb Association Sportive de Fez claimed the trophy in 1998.
In addition to that success, Morocco demonstrated a terrific competitiveness in the first-leg of Group C of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers in November in Luanda, Angola.
Has anybody predicted such unprecedented rise?
And to shed light on Morocco's current basketball, no one better than Abdelhakim Zouita - for most critics, Morocco's current best basketball player.
"People shouldn't be surprised," Zouita told me. "We have been working very hard over the last seven years. We had some disappointing results until 2015, but now we want and we believe that we can be the number one in Africa," he emphasised.
Named ACC 2017 Most Valuable Player, Zouita - a 6ft7in (2.00m) forward has been key to Morocco basketball's transformation, although he sat out the last edition of the African Championship.
He went on to explain the key to his country's resurgence in Africa's basketball scene.
"Prior to the ACC, we tried to figure out why Moroccan teams (FAR Rabat and AS Sale) finished in Third-Place in 2015 and 2016, respectively. We concluded that we lacked focus, we had to turn things around. Either we changed our attitude on the [basketball] court or we would continue to struggle year after year.
"Monastir [the side of the ACC 2017 Zone 1 Qualifier] wasn't the starting-point to our success, it was a continuation of a process that began years ago.
"We had just lost the final of the Arab Championship, and winning the African Cup meant the world to us. It's a huge achievement.
"We are pleased that we are managing to achieve positive results. Now, Morocco basketball shareholders should ensure to give our young players a chance of competing at the highest level possible because we have many basketball talents in Morocco."
Although Morocco have never competed at a world stage competition, they now feel they have realistic chances of securing one of five places available for African nations for the 32-team FIBA's flagship event.
"There is a long way to go," Zouita reflected on Morocco's 1-2 mark after the first-leg of the African Qualifiers. "There are some great African teams fighting to qualify for the World Cup, and we want one of the five tickets to move on to China.'
The second-leg of Group C, which includes Angola, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo resumes in June-July in Egypt.
Until then, let's keep an eye on Morocco's unprecedented rise.
By Julio Chitunda for FIBA.com