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Senegal's Hannah hopes to create lasting memories at China 2019
GRAN CANARIA (Spain) - In the build-up to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, Clevin Hannah feels he still has a lot to offer to his Senegal national team.
After making his senior national team debut with the Lions of Teranga at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) and featuring at the following year's FIBA AfroBasket - co-hosted by Senegal and Tunisia - the 1.80m (5ft 11in) point guard, has publicly noted that he feels a sense of belonging even though he was born in New York.
"IT WAS SUCH AN HONOR TO BE PART OF THE TEAM FOR BOTH OF THOSE TOURNAMENTS. IT WAS REALLY A UNIQUE FEELING PLAYING IN FRONT OF THE FANS THERE IN SENEGAL."
At the World Cup in China, Senegal will open their First Round Group H campaign in Dongguan against Canada, Lithuania and Australia. Hannah, who helped the national team to a third-place finish at AfroBasket in 2017 by averaging a team-high 4.3 assists per game, believes this is an opportunity "to get back with the guys and create more memories."
Talking to FIBA.basketball, Hannah - who currently plays for Herbalife Gran Canaria in Spain's ACB League - insists he looks forward to "going out and competing to make history with Senegal again at one of the most historical tournaments ever."
Here the draw for the @FIBAWC 2019 - some great match-ups. Group H looks really tough with Canada, Senegal, Lithuania and Australia. Only two advance to Round of 16. Turkey, Czechs and Japan will get shot at USA. China with Ivory Coast, Poland and Venezuela in their group. pic.twitter.com/K966WA4ltW— David Hein (@heinnews) March 16, 2019
The former Wichita State student athlete has had a professional career which has seen him play in several European countries, including Romania, Lithuania, Finland, France, Turkey and Spain. As such, he is well positioned to give his take on what Senegal can expect when they tip off their World Cup campaign in China.
"It’s a really strong group, with many great players," he said. "Lithuania team is really tough but so are the other two teams. All teams have NBA players and top EuroLeague players. So I think each team has to be fully prepared because every team can win on any given night."
"SENEGAL CAN COMPETE WITH ANY TEAM BECAUSE OF THE HEART WE PLAY WITH AND THE ATHLETES WE HAVE."
After winning Senegalese hearts, the 31-year-old became a household name in the West African country and local fans sang his name each time he had one of his many eye-catching assists and three-point shots.
"It was such an honor to be part of the team for both of those tournaments (OQT and AfroBasket). It was really a unique feeling playing in front of the fans there in Senegal. I think China is going to really be challenging but also exciting for all of the guys, and I’m sure the team will compete at a high level all together."
When it comes to setting goals and expectations for Senegal at their second consecutive World Cup appearance - especially after the team did some damage at Spain 2014, where it advanced from the Group Phase - Hannah is very much upbeat about their chances.
"I think Senegal can compete with any team because of the heart we play with and the athletes we have," he offered. "I'm so proud of the guys and their dedication to the team. There is so much talent in Senegal and they showed it by qualifying for the World Cup again.
"I’m so grateful for the fans and all of their support that they’ve given the team. They support us through all of the ups and downs and that is really amazing. I'm sure the guys will go out and give their all every single game to show our respect and love back to the fans."