DAKAR (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Twenty-three Senegal players have been pre-selected to help their country reach the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The country's basketball federation last week announced the preliminary squad that will take part in a four-week training camp beginning on 6 June in the capital Dakar in preparation for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila, Philippines (5-10 July).
The group of 23 blends young players like Pape Diatta and veterans such as Sitapha Savane, who last represented the Western Africans at the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
"It's a great group of players. If everybody named in the list can come, we'll be tough to beat," Antoine Mendy said to FIBA.com.
"I saw Hamady Ndiaye and Maurice Ndour play this season. They are the kind of players that we need in a competition like the OQT. They can make a difference for us."
In order to compete at their first Olympic since 1980, Senegal will need to pass their Group A tests against Turkey and Canada.
If they advance to the next stage of the OQT, Senegal will face a Group B side - France, the Philippines or New Zealand - in a Semi-Final. The two Semi-Final winners will play each other with a spot in the Brazil Games at stake.
We are going to face big teams, but people must remember that basketball has a universal language. Nowadays small teams are able to surprise big teams. I keep telling my guys, without disrespecting our opponents, we need to believe in ourselves first before looking at other teams. - Mendy
"I am ready to join the national when the national team's training camp begin. I can't wait to take to the court in Manila."
Last summer D'Almeida averaged a tournament-high 7.4 assists per game, but will sit out the OQT due to injury.
"He was a real leader in Tunisia," Mendy said. "I hope the younger players can help. They may lack international experience, but they will just need to play the best they can."
Senegal 23-player preliminary squad for 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila: Louis Adams, Gueye Serigne Bamba, Moussa Camara, Badou Diagne, Moussa Diagne, Gorgui Dieng, Ibrahima Fall Faye, Ibrahima Mbengue, Cheikh Tidiane Mbodj, Antoine Mendy, Papis Sadiaw Diatta Ndiaye, El Hadj Malick Ndiaye, Thierno Ibrahima Niang, Maurice Ndour, Abdoulaye Ndoye, Maleye Ndoye, Youssoupha Ndoye, Hamady Ndiaye, Mamadou Ndiaye, Ibrahima Niang, Lamine Samb, Sitapha Savane and Ibrahima Thomas.