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Geraldine Robert sparks Gabon into AfroBasket Women 2015
LIBREVILLE (AfroBasket Women 2015) - Geraldine Robert's debut for Gabon's national team couldn't have gone any better.
Robert sparked Gabon with averages of 22.7 points and 13.5 rebounds as they qualified for AfroBasket Women 2015, which will take place in Cameroon from 24 September to 4 October.
The 34-year-old made such a big impact in the qualifier that she ended up being named the MVP of the tournament.
Back in France, Robert spoke to FIBA.com: "It was an excellent experience to win the qualifier in front of my people," she said.
"Everyone was so happy in the streets, and I feel happy because basketball was almost non-existent in Gabon in the past few years."
Gabon opened the qualifier with a 54-51 triumph over Congo (0-4) and, despite finishing with a 70-67 defeat against Cameroon (3-1), they finished top of the group thanks to their 64-49 victory over Cameroon in the first-round.
Now that Gabon is back on the basketball map, it is all about planning the future.
"We knew it was going to be difficult because of our national team inexperience," Robert recalled.
"We did a good job, and the federation knows it needs to put up a good preparation plan and strength our roster with some Gabonese players playing in Europe or in the USA.
"We are newcomers to this competition, and we need more competitiveness to face big teams such as Mali, Angola and Senegal.
We are not going to Cameroon to make up numbers. Our goal is to qualify to the top-3 at AfroBasket Women - Robert
As a result, Gabon qualified for both the AfroBasket Women and the 2015 All-Africa Games, which will take place in the Republic of Congo from 4-19 September.
She went on saying: "When I left my club here in France, I knew we were going to accomplish something special. I am really proud of teammates.
"The agreement to represent Gabon was made in December when members of the federation came to meet my club.
"The club President thought it was a reward for my career to let me go, and assured me that my teammates would do everything to keep the club in the right track.
"The game is very physical over there, but tactically it is the same fundamentals. The only low-point is the lack of individual skills for some players who began their basketball careers too late, at the age of 16."
While in Libreville, the Gabonese did not lose track of her teammates back in Europe trying to make history.
Villeneuve d'Ascq defeated visiting Maccabi Bnot Ashdod 72-56 to overturn a nine-point first-leg deficit and win their Semi-Finals 129-122 on aggregate.
They will face Belgian side Castors Braine in the Final of EuroCup Women 2015, which will be played over two legs, with the higher ranked team, Castors Braine, playing the second game at home.
The first leg will take place on 19 March in Villeneuve d'Ascq, with the return leg scheduled for 26 March in Braine L'Alleud.
This will be Gabon's first AfroBasket Women appearance since the 2005 edition of the tournament held in Abuja, Nigeria, and the local media praised the historic achievement.