LUANDA (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Recently-appointed Angola head coach Carlos Dinis won't make major changes in the team's line-up for this summer's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade, Serbia, (4-9 July).
Eduardo Mingas, 37, announced his retirement from the national team last September, after playing in six editions of FIBA Africa's flagship competition. His decision to step aside leaves the door open for newcomers.
However, Dinis, who has a proven track record with Angola's youth teams and also worked as a basketball analyst, won't look at age as a factor.
"The age issue is a distraction because Angola wasn't the oldest squad at AfroBasket 2015," he told FIBA.com. "If younger players play well in the national league, obviously I will give them a chance to represent our country. If older and more experienced players can do better in the league, they will be called up also, and I am going to need to blend them."
Gerson Domingos, the 2015 U18 FIBA African Championship MVP, remains a potential pick for Angola
In the six-team OQT Angola will take on hosts Serbia and Puerto Rico in Group A. Should they finish in the top two, they would then advance to a Semi-Final to take on one of the first two sides from a Group B that consists of Japan, the Czech Republic and Latvia. The Semi-Final winners will then square off and the winner of the Final will claim a berth for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Dinis pointed out that Angola's target in Belgrade will extend to a more long-term objective.
"Our goal is to play well, win one or two games and start our preparation for the AfroBasket 2017," he said.
If we can qualify for the Olympics we will be happy. If not, we won’t be sad because we know this is a very difficult competition. It can be compared to the [FIBA Basketball] World Cup. But we know our players tend to step up in competitions like this. - Dinis
Dinis led his country to a fourth-place finish at the 2014 FIBA Africa U18 Championship.
And, after leading an Angola team consiting mainly of youngsters to the title in the basketball competition at the 2015 All-African Games last September, he saw his credentials increased to the point of being named the replacement of Spaniard Moncho Lopez at the helm of the former African champions.
He insisted that over the past three decades Angola has always played with different squads and this year would be no different.
I am looking to make changes, but nothing extraordinary. Ever since we won the first African championships in the 1980s we have been very cautious with rebuilding of our teams. There won’t be any abrupt changes. - Dinis
Asked about the team's schedule and planning, Dinis said he is looking to announce the preliminary squad in May and that they might hold training camps in Spain.
As for Angola's Group Phase opponents, the tactician insisted he knows them well. He was impressed with Serbia's campaign at 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, calling it "a strong team which inherited the Yugoslavia basketball school."
"We can't underestimate Puerto Rico because they have talented players and have become regulars to international competition."