SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda’s African Message) - The US are favourites to win the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 in Cairo, but Angola’s Bruno Fernandes can’t wait to go up against the Americans.
Three years ago at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Dubai, the Americans trounced Angola 99-56 in the Group Phase in a game that Fernandes [some media tend to call him Fernando] finished with a double-double 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Ever since I watched live Spain's Pau Gasol, Juan-Carlos Navarro and Felipe Reyes beating the US in the FIBA U19 World Championship 1999 Final in Lisbon, the tournament became one of my favourites.
“Africa couldn’t be better represented with Egypt, Mali and Angola,” he replied.
“Even though these three countries have different cultural backgrounds, we are in the tournament for one common goal, which is to take African basketball to the next level.”
It’s the first time that an African country host the biennial FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, and African teams have never made it to the Quarter-Finals.
But Fernandes, who’s committed to join the Maryland University, has a more positive opinion.
“Both Egypt and Mali are highly-competitive teams, so fans should expect something special from us,” he noted.
As for the prospect of facing the US again, Fernandes said: “Playing a team like the US is always exciting because you always learn something new. It’s a great opportunity for us to show the world how much we have improved over the last three years.
“It’s a tough group, we have no doubt about it, but the tougher the group is the better for us.
“When we faced the US in Dubai  our team was mostly based in Angola. We didn’t have any experience of American basketball. I had a good game, but I look forward to playing even better when we meet again in Cairo.”
Five Angolans - Silvio de Sousa, Valdir Manuel, Eric Amandio, Bruno Fernando and Rifen Miguel - are currently enrolled in US high-schools looking to join US college basketball programmes.
Angola won their first FIBA Africa U18 title last summer thanks to a terrific display from Fernandes and Silvio de Sousa, who was eventually named the MVP.
“The sooner we start the team’s preparations the better. Last summer Silvio and I joined the team three days before the tournament because we played at the [FIBA] Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade. If we integrate sooner, it’ll be a lot easier.”
By Julio Chitunda for FIBA.com