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Resilient Guinea ready to move on continental ranks
CONAKRY - Guinea may not be a powerhouse in Africa women's basketball, but they remain resilient and ambitious to keep on growing at continental level.
Over the past few years, Guinea have endured so much adversity that few expected them to win a game at AfroBasket Women 2015.
To begin with, they arrived in Cameroon's capital of Yaounde - site of the 12-team competition - a day after the event began.
Additionally, head coach Ousmane Sylla took only nine players instead of the 12 required.
But, against the odds, they strove.
Among Guinea's roster were 41-year-old Aminata Sylla, Senegal-born Khady Mbaye, Fanta Berete who is only 20, and 37-year-old Nadia Peruch-Niang, who came out of retirement to spark the Western Africans with a team-high 14.2 points per game.
Guinea proceeded to win not one or two games, but instead claimed three victories to finish ninth.
And, climbing eight places in the FIBA World Ranking Women to become the number 10 side in Africa topped things off nicely.
"Tremendous success for us. This is a step forward in Guinea's basketball," coach Sylla told FIBA.com.
Given that the Guineans had never won so many games in a single edition of AfroBasket Women, Sylla says the team's campaign is just reward for all the hard work they have put in over the past few months.
Ousmane Sylla (GUI)
"We have have faced many adversities because of the Ebola virus epidemic," he recalled.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 2,534 people lost their lives because of the Ebola virus and basketball in the country was deeply affected.
"The disease was devastating to our basketball programmes as many youngsters stopped coming to practice," Sylla explained.
As a result of the virus outbreak, neighbouring countries refused to travel to Guinea, but as Sylla says, the Guineans resisted and welcome any help such as the 'Love Guinea Basketball' initiative.
"Now we just need to keep on working to take Guinea basketball to the next level," he pointed out.
Being able to compete at such high level on the African continent is a privilege to us. - Sylla
"We won three games, and we look to encourage these girls to keep on working to become better and better.
"Moving forward, the most important thing is to invest in infrastructures to modernise basketball in Guinea.
"We are going to need skilled coaches as well a better organisation. With all that in place and with the will of our players to keep on playing at high level we have to remain confident in the future of the game in Guinea," Sylla concluded.