SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - Basketball in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) needs an urgent boost to encourage some of their best players to represent the country on the biggest stage.
The history has proven that there is basketball talent in the country, both male and female.
The game of basketball in the DR Congo has been stagnant for so long that some of their players seem to have turned back on the country to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
I have no recollection of watching so many Congolese playing internationally for different nations as it is the case now.
Charles Kahudi, Jonathan Tabu, Wen Mukubu and Kevin Tumba are currently competing at EuroBasket 2015. The first wears the colours of France, while the latter three those of Belgium.
They are all good players that could have added some competitiveness and quality to their country of birth, which last competed in Africa's flagship tournament back in 2007.
At the time, an 18-year-old Christian Eyenga - the youngest player on the roster - went on to showcase his potential before embarking on a professional career in the NBA as well as Spain's ACB.
Since then, the DR Congo have failed to qualify for AfroBasket.
Earlier this year, they withdrew from the AfroBasket 2015 Zone 4 qualifier in which Cameroon defeated the Republic of Congo in a two-team competition.
There are so many questions about the game in the DR Congo.
Some may wonder why the country's most famous basketball player, NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, never represented them in international competition.
Thought is also given to whether or not Bismack Biyombo will ever get a chance to represent his country.
Perhaps, the answers to these and other questions have to do with the recurrent mismanagement of basketball in the country.
However, with the introduction of the new FIBA competition system - coming into action in 2017 - basketball federations such as that of the DR Congo should have a major opportunity to turn things around and try to become self-sufficient.
And, if they embrace professionalism, attracting their talented basketball players spread across the globe shouldn't be a problem, especially as players who make their living playing basketball expect a professional approach from their federations.
Just like Tabu, Kahudi, Makubu and Tumba did, former NBA champion Ilunga 'D.J' Mbenga has also represented Belgium internationally.
But, unlike Tabu, Kahudi, Makubu, Tumba and Ilunga, Kami Kabangu didn't need to travel all the way to Europe to play international basketball.
He crossed the DR Congo's east border to represent Rwanda, not once, but in three editions of AfroBasket (2009, 2011 and 2013), enough to become a household name in that country.
What next for the DR Congo basketball?
Well, as I mentioned early in this column, FIBA's new competition system - which will allow most national teams to play official games in front of their home fans in a home-and-away format, as well as create an opportunities to generate income - should be the lifeline and solution the country's basketball family has been waiting for.
Until then, we will continue to see Tabu, Kahudi, Makubu and Tumba shining at EuroBasket.