SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - The Republic of Congo are set to host this year's FIBA AfroBasket in August (19-30), but very little is said about their chances in the tournament.
Realistically speaking, Congo-Brazzaville are far from being the strongest basketball nation on the continent of Africa, but they can't complain of lack of talented players.
Four years ago, when they last appeared at FIBA Africa's flagship event, the Congolese won only one of their five games, finishing 14th out of 16 teams.
Today's column looks at how talent loaded Congo-Brazzaville are and how much they could achieve if some players were available to suit up for them.
I have picked seven players that could make Congo-Brazzaville really strong at FIBA AfroBasket 2017.
1. Nobel Boungou-Colo
Having lived most of his adult life in France, the 2.02m small forward has dual citizenship. He has previously been selected by France but was cut before the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2014 so he remains eligible to play for Congo-Brazzaville.
Boungou-Colo, who turns 29 later this month, currently plays for Russian side Khimki. He is in his prime, and if the Congolese Basketball Federation needs a game-changer, the Brazzaville native would certainly be the one.
At least he has been holding summer training camps in the country.
"I am looking at options," he told me when I asked if he was keen to play for his country.
2. Giovan Oniangue
The Paris Levallois shooting guard led Congo-Brazzaville in scoring with 14.5 points per game at FIBA AfroBasket 2013. He is currently recovering from a knee injury and is, therefore, likely to sit out this summer's showpiece on home soil.
A prolific three-point shooter, Oniangue would be key for the tournament hosts if he recovers in time, but as he told me: "Right now I am focused on my recovery."
3. Jean-Felix Moupegnou
Anyone who followed the Congolese's campaign in Abidjan four years ago would certainly remember how crucial Moupegnou was in their 87-77 win over Mali.
In that game, he made 5 of his 7 field goals en route to a 17-point effort. He played so hard that he ended up fouling out.
A terrific and tireless fighter, Moupegnou last played for Etendard Brest in France's third tier.
4. Earvine Bassoumba
At 21 years of age, this 2.05m power forward is emerging as one of biggest promises of Congo-Brazzaville basketball.
Currently playing for Le Mans in France's top flight, the Brazzaville native can learn about international basketball from club teammates Mickael Gelabale (France) and Pape Philippe Amagou (Cote d'Ivoire).
5. Igor Ibaka
A versatile small forward who plays tough at both ends of the floor, the younger brother of Spain international Serge Ibaka continues making his name by himself.
6. Charles Nkaloulou
Twenty-two years of pure talent. Currently playing for Xuventude Baloncesto Cambados in Spain's second tier LEB Plata, the Congolese continues making waves in the Southern European country.
7. Viny Okouo
Not many players can proudly say they debuted in Spain's ACB League at the young age of 18. But Unicaja's rising start Viny Okouo did just that two years ago.
A seven-footer with good passing abilities and who runs the floor quite well, Okouo should be a major asset for Congo-Brazzaville this summer.
With these players as well as a skilled coaching team, Congo-Brazzaville could climb significant places in the NIKE FIBA World Rankings.
By Julio Chitunda for FIBA.com