KIGALI (FIBA Africa U18 Championship 2016) – Mali have reached the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA Africa U18 championship 2016 thanks to a terrific Group A performance in which they finished with a 4-0 mark.
Thanks to a team effort, the West Africans claimed a comprehensive 91-39 win against Gabon on Wenesday.
He stopped by to talk to FIBA.com about national team's career as well as his NBA dreams.
FIBA.com: What do you make of the win against Gabon?
Traore: I am very happy because as a group this gives us more confidence. With the Quarter-Finals in our bags we have now to focus on the next step.
FIBA.com: Can you tell us more about your targets in this tournament?
Traore: We came to Kigali with the only goal of winning the title. This is important for us as Mali men’s teams have never been crowned at a continental level. We always fall short of achieving our goal, but this time around I think we have what it takes to make history.
FIBA.com: But are you aware that to reach the top step of the podium, you need to beat tough teams including Angola, Egypt as well as Rwanda? How prepared are you to succeed against those teams?
Traore: We are competitors, and we know that the key point is to stay focused during practice and competing every game with our weapons…without cheating. It is obvious that this year, the championship is tougher than ever. But if we do not believe in our capacities, we would rather go back home right now.
FIBA.com: You are now ranked among the leading scorers of the tournament. What does it mean to you?
Traore: It's good to be among the best players. But this will have no meaning if you go back home without the trophy. The important for me is to continue working hard and make sure we have a good chemistry during our games. This will be the only way to achieve our goal.
FIBA.com: Anyway, there is life after this tournament. Can you tell us what will be the next step for you?
Traore: I really need to remain focused and finish the tournament by keeping up the momentum, and that could be helpful in my future career. I also have my eyes set on the senior national team.
FIBA.com: In which leagues would like to ply your trade?
Traore: If I have the opportunity to play in Europe, it will not be bad. But playing in the NBA would be the achievement of a childhood dream. That’s why I am working hard every day.
FIBA.com: Is there an NBA Franchise in which you would like to play?
Traore: The Los Angeles Lakers. It will be nice to play in the same gym where Kobe Bryant made history.