SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda’s African Message) - What Babacar Ndiaye - the President of Senegal Basketball Federation - recently suggested is that his country needs its foreign-based professional players more than ever to qualify for major tournaments.
As the strongest and highest ranked team in the region, Senegal must be ready to avoid past upsets, particularly when Cape Verde seems prepared to do whatever it takes to secure a ticket to Brazzaville, according to Jeff Xavier.
“We are looking to bring professional players for this series,” Ndiaye said to the local media.
“What happened to Senegal during the FIBA AfroBasket 2015 qualifier should serve as a lesson,” Ndiaye continued.
Featuring a team that included mostly home-based players, Senegal lost both games against Mali, and as a result failed direct qualification for the FIBA AfroBasket 2015.
Thankfully, they were awarded one of the three wild card invitations to play in Tunisia and were able to play in FIBA Africa’s flagship tournament for the 27th time in a row.
Playing in Tunis, with big names like Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Mendy and Maleye Ndoye, Senegal looked nothing like the team that struggled to contend against Mali a few months earlier.
Under coach Cheikh Sarr, Dieng, Mendy and Ndoye carried the team to the Semi-Finals and could have reached the Final had they been able to stop eventual African champions Nigeria.
Following the defeat to Mali, then Senegal head coach Cheikh Sarr insisted that the loss didn’t reflect the country’s basketball potential. That’s fair enough.
But Ndiaye’s remarks reveal some sort of foreign-based players dependency, which is nothing wrong with it.
However, the potential disparity between Senegalese who make a living playing professional basketball overseas and those starring in the local championship seem to grow year after year.
Ndiaye insides that “some of the players have agreed in principle to play for us. I’ve personally talked to them. The only condition is to notify them in time to negotiate their release [from their clubs]. As soon as we know the draw we will invite them."
With that being said, as good as Senegal are, they might be looking to avoid their third wild card invitation since 2009. And nothing better than using their best assets.
In the process, Ndiaye announced that Senegal will be hosting a friendly tournament against Tunisia.