PARIS (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - The 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in the Philippines will not only represent Senegal's last chance to reach the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but also be their toughest challenge in recent years.
Despite being the lowest ranked team in the pool - Senegal are 31st in the FIBA World Ranking Men - both Maleye Ndoye and Antoine Mendy, two influential players who helped Senegal finish in the fourth-place of AfroBasket 2015, remain positive despite conceding that the draw wasn't generous to them.
We have no choice, it's a tough draw for us. We have to play Canada, a basketball country, to begin the procedures. But I think we are going to be ready, then we'll see what happens next. We are all excited about the challenge, and we are going to take our chances. - Ndoye
Ndoye, a 35-year-old sharpshooter who has been the oldest player in Senegal's rosters in recent years, was born in August 1980, one month after his country last played at the Olympics. This might be his last chance of representing Senegal on the big stage.
For us, it’s win or go home. The two Group Phase games for us are going to be two big finals. - Ndoye
Senegal will open their OQT campaign by taking on Canada on 6 July, before going against Turkey the following day.
Mendy, the team's second leading scorer behind Gorgui Dieng at AfroBasket 2015, seconded what Ndoye said.
"This is the toughest group that we could be drawn in. I heard that even France were looking to avoid Canada," said the 1.98m forward. "But, you know, this is basketball. If we play with the same combative spirit and energy that we played in the AfroBasket last summer, we’ll be okay.
We know it’s our last chance to make it to the Olympics, and we just need to keep our heads held high, and go for the fight. - Mendy
"It was a tough loss for us, and it remains in my mind," Ndoye recalled of his team's last game to end the Group Phase. "Had we won that game, we probably would have avoided hosts Spain in the Round of 16, and we would have advanced to the Quarter-Finals, which no African team had ever achieved. But, if we have to face the Philippines again we'll go for revenge. I know it won't be easy because Philippines' fans are very supportive of their team."
Only the winning teams of each OQT will advance to the 2016 Olympics.