TUCSON (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - The FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Zone 2 Qualifiers will get underway next month, and Mohamed Tangara, the captain of Mali's men's national team, thinks they have great chance to secure one of the two spots on offer for the Final Round in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo (August 19-30).
Following the withdrawal of Cape Verde, the regional qualifier will see Mali go up against Senegal and Guinea.
''I think we can punch one of the two tickets on offer in zone 2," said Tangara, who counts three appearances in FIBA AfroBasket tournaments.
Like Tangara, Boubacar Sidibe also feels Mali can make it to Brazzaville.
The qualifier will be played over two legs with the two top teams qualifying for the Brazzaville showpiece in August (19-30).
Two years ago, Mali punched their ticket for the Final Round in Radès, Tunisia after beating Senegal in the two-game series.
And this time again, the 32-year-old remains upbeat his country will make a tremendous impact.
''We need to be well prepared to avoid being surprised by the other teams," Tangara warned. "Guinea has a number of good players who ply their trade in France, and Senegal will certainly have in its squad some of their best professional players. So the task will not be easy".
Based in Tucson, Arizona, the 2.07m center - affectionately called "Senior Brother’" of Mali basketball - has made his availability to the national team be known.
He is gearing up to join the team.
"If I received a call for the national team, I must be able to play at the same level of the FIBA AfroBasket 2015. If not, I will logically leave space for the youth to represent the country," he said.
If Tangara is not part of the team as a player, he is still keen to share his high-level of basketball experience with the new generation of Mali players like Cheick Diallo of New Orleans Pelicans (NBA) Namory Boundy, Ibrahim Bah and Ibrahim Djambo.
Asked about Mali's ambition at this summer’s FIBA AfroBasket, Tangara clearly targets the podium.
''The Malian Basketball Federation is doing a great job. With a good preparation, Mali have a great chance to finish on the podium in Brazzaville," the 32-year-old replied.