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50 Salah Mejri (TUN)
25/09/2019
Julio Chitunda's African Message
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Top 5 African players and a look back at FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019

LEEDS (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - Africa's five representative at the recently concluded FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China may have fallen short of their primary goal of reaching the Quarter-Finals for the first time, but some of their players ended up being some of the biggest winners in the tournament.

None of them made it to the All-Tournament team, but their performances were a reminder that they belong on the big stage.

While some of them are expected next summer for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), one was so good in China that he bolstered his chances of being shortlisted for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

SALAH MEJRI

Even though Tunisia finished finished 20th, the seven-footer center, who has recently joined China's Liaoning Flying Leopards from the NBA outfit Dallas Mavericks, did everything in his power throughout his country's five-game run at China 2019.

The 2011 FIBA AfroBasket MVP contributed team-highs 16 points, 10 rebounds (two double-doubles) and, more importantly, he led all players with with a tournament-high 3.2 blocks per game. 

Here're some of his highlights in China.

 

CARLOS MORAIS 

It was a breath of fresh air watching both Valdelicio Joaquim and Yanick Moreira making their presence felt in the Angolans' paint.

It was the 2.08m (6ft10in) Joaquim's first major international appearance since the 2016 FIBA OQT in Belgrade and he didn't disappoint. His twin tower Moreira's tenacity and desperation to try to keep Angola in contention was also refreshing to see, however Carlos Morais' shooting prowess set him aside. 

Making three of this six three-point attempts against Serbia isn't necessarily a feat that many dare to achieve, but Morais showed he likes big stage competition.

JOSH OKOGIE

Unquestionably, both Josh Okogie and Chimezie Metu added value to  a star-studded Nigeria roster.

Energetic, with a skillset that made him one of the biggest highlights in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, Okogie gave eventual finalists Argentina some tough time in their Group B's matchup. 

And although Nigeria failed to advance to the Second Round, Okogie made his name heard, and he seems to have started his own legacy with the D'Tigers uniform. 

If all goes according to plan, Tokyo 2020 will be his next stop with the Nigerian uniform.

YOUSSOUPHA NDOYE

One of the positive lessons the Senegalese took from the China 2019 showpiece was the way Ndoye battled it out throughout the tournament.

At times, he seemed as if he were a World Cup veteran, but it was only his debut in the tournament. 

Aggressive at attacking the rim, and ferocious at protecting the Senegalese rim, Ndoye's two double-doubles don't showed only a tiny portion of his talent.

The 2.11m (6ft11in) center joins his new club Nanterre 92 in France's PRO A keen to deliver what his country was unable to achieve in China.

OMAR ABADA 

China 2019 was Abada's biggest opportunity to show his talent, and he lived up to expectations. The 1.89m (6ft 2in) guard made his World Cup debut dishing out a team-high six assists against new champions Spain, but that was just the start of a stellar campaign that saw him finish an average of almost 11 points per game.

 

Quick and fearless attacking the basket, Abada has reminded everyone why he is one of Africa's most talented point guards.

Players's performances aside, here's what Nigeria, Angola, Tunisia, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire achieved in China.

NIGERIA

Nigeria won three of their five games, and as a result, not only finished with Africa's best record in the 32-nation event, but they also secured the only automatic ticket available for next year's Tokyo Olympics.

 

In the process, Nigeria, who finished 17th, qualify to the Olympic Games for the third time in a row.

TUNISIA

After beating Iran, reigning African champions Tunisia had everything in their hands to become the continent's only team to advance to the Second Round of the tournament, but conceding a three-point shot in the last five seconds of their last Group Phase game against Puerto Rico will surely haunt them for many years to come.

The loss not only meant the Tunisians were relegated to the 17-32 Classification Round, but it also meant that they now face a stiffer battle at next year's 24-team Olympic Qualifying Tournament where they will try to secure one of the four spots still on offer for the Tokyo Games.

Tunisia finished in 20th-Place.

ANGOLA

Angola headed to China knowing that beating Serbia and Italy in Group D was almost mission impossible. However, facing teams relatively less strong, the eleven-time African champions demonstrated moments of good basketball, especially against, Iran and Tunisia.

But it was a 84-81 win over Philippines that served as a consolation for the Angolans, who finished 27th.

COTE D'IVOIRE

Cote d'Ivoire had a promising start to the tournament, pushing hosts China to the limit in their Group A opener, but a 70-55 loss didn't do the Ivoirians any justice.

The 'Elephants' of Cote d'Ivoire lost all their five games by an average of 14.8 points, and therefore, returned home with many lessons to learn from their second World Cup appearance since 2010.

The 'Elephants' of Cote d'Ivoire finished in 29th-Place.

SENEGAL

Unlike their 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign where they reached the Second Round, Senegal's 0-5 mark in China raised more questions than answers about the team's progress on the big stage. Continuity and preparation is surely something Senegalese must work on.

As a result of their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 campaigns, and following FIBA World Ranking's latest update, Nigeria remained as Africa's No.1, Angola improved to No.2, Tunisia are now third, Senegal dropped to No.4 while Cote d'Ivoire climbed a staggering 16 places to become No.5.

Julio Chitunda
FIBA

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Julio Chitunda

Julio Chitunda

Julio Chitunda, a University of Sheffield alumni and former semi-professional player, has worked for a number of Portuguese media outlets as well as The Press Association and covered international basketball for over a decade. Through his column, he offers an insight into basketball on the world's second biggest continent.