TUNIS (FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017) - As Tunisia prepare their first FIBA Women's AfroBasket appearance since 2011, Salma Mnasria believes this could be a game-changer event for women's basketball in her country.
It's been over 16 years since Tunisia last finished on the podium of the FIBA African Championship. Playing as hosts of the 2001 FIBA Women's AfroBasket edition Tunisia lost 71-63 to Senegal in the Final.
With a wave of younger players like Houda Hamrouni and Marwa Shili making strides, Mnasria can't help but remain optimistic.
"We will try to do our very best to improve from our last participation. We have a young team with some of us playing professionally abroad. I am confident we’ll do better this year than we did six years ago." - Mnasria
This year's FIBA Women's AfroBasket will run from August 18-27 in Bamako, Mali, where Tunisia last appeared in FIBA Africa's most important women's competition.
"Our team is good enough to reach the Quarter-Finals," the 1.94m center with two African Championships under her belt said to FIBA.Basketball.
Tunisia are drawn in Group A along with the host nation, Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon and a team to be attributed a wildcard.
"Mali and Angola are probably the biggest teams in Africa. They have won the African title in recent years. And these are the teams with the biggest chances of reaching the Final," Mnasria - one of the most experienced players on the Tunisian team - explained.
Mnasria is only 30 years of age, but she has been playing for Tunisia for so long that it becomes inevitable asking about her national team's generational transition.
Just check out the link below to see her impact on the game.
"We will try to do our very best to improve from our last participation. We have a young team with some of us playing professionally abroad.''
"I am confident we’ll do better this year than we did six years ago," said Mnasria who last played for Torres Novas in Portugal's top flight.
This year's 12-team FIBA Women's AfroBasket will serve as a qualifier for the FIBA Women's World Cup 2018 in Spain.
And, Mnasria - who has starred for her country at the FIBA U19 Women's World Cup 2005 - the first FIBA global event to take place on the continent of Africa - as well as the 2003 FIBA World Championship for Young Women in Croatia, feels anything is possible.
"We are allowed to dream of playing in the World Cup again. It is not impossible [to qualify for Spain 2018] but we still have room for improvement," the Sfax native added.
Tunisia are expected to host Roumania next week in Sousse as part of their FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017 preparations.