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Top players from the 5th window of the World Cup African Qualifiers
SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - The fifth window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers last month in Luanda not only confirmed hosts Angola as the third African country to qualify for next year's World Cup in China but it also offered some incredible individual performances.
Although there's been a number of unsung heroes, who I will talk about later in this column, five players set themselves apart.
In no particular order, these are my top players from the 5th window of the World Cup African Qualifiers.
Jeremy Nzeulie (Cameroon)
After losing twice to Tunisia and Angola in the Qualifiers, it was obvious that sooner or later the Cameroonian guard would bring his A game to the court . And he did it when it mattered most.
With Cameroon on the brink of elimination, the 27-year-old hit five of his 11 three-point attempts, dished out five assists to finish with a game-high 30 points in an extremely important 80-60 win over Egypt.
With the win, Cameroon increased their chances of qualifying for the World Cup 2019, but it will need to wait until February 2019 to find out the outcome of Group F and see if they claim the best third-placed team in Africa.
Carlos Morais (Angola)
On a number of occasions, Angola coach Will Voigt has described Morais as their best player. And when he fouled out in the third quarter of the clash against Tunisia, Morais who had 17 points, two assists and three rebounds, took another role.
"What fans don't know is that Carlos sat in my seat. He took the head coach's seat and was coaching, which is unbelievable," Voigt said in the post-match press conference.
Morais finished with an average of 17 points in three games.
Yanick Moreira (Angola)
A referee's controversial decision to eject Moreira, in a critical moment of the clash against Cameroon, seemed to have reenergised Moreira for the remainder of the tournament.
.@Ymoreira02 recorded a double double to inspire Angola 🇦🇴 to their 8th record appearance for an African side at the #FIBAWC!— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) December 2, 2018
🔥 13pts, 10reb, 5ast, 4stl vs Chad
➡ https://t.co/FTM6TACcEN pic.twitter.com/SkI0o2Xj4P
A key element for the Angolans, the 6ft11in (2.11m) center came back stronger and determined to help his countruy close the qualifiers undefeated in their last three games.
He provided Angola crucial defensive plays in the 69-63 triumph against the African champions Tunisia.
Benoit Mbala (Cameroon)
Two months ago, Mbala missed an apparent easy layup in the dying seconds of the first-leg of Group E against Egypt, which the North Africans capitalised from to secure a crucial 62-58.
Benoit Mbala inspired Cameroon with his team-high 14 points per game
However, Mbala returned reinvigorated, inspiring Cameroon to a 2-1 mark that could see his country reach the World Cup for the first time in their basketball history.
Omar Oraby (Egypt)
Throughout the qualifiers, Oraby was Egypt's heart and soul. The 7ft2in (2.19m) center did everything in his power to help the Pharaohs reach their second straight World Cup appearance.
However, with Oraby apparently experiencing some physical discomfort in Egypt's do-or-die clash against Cameroon, the North African collapsed.
Yet, Oraby averaged important 11 points and almost two blocks per game.
As I mentioned earlier in this column, a number players displayed some terrific plays and contributions to their teams throughout the three-day competition that they couldn't go unnoticed.
Tunisia's Mokthar Ghyaza came off the bench, hit four of his five mid-range jumpers attempts against Angola in what was his most important performance in years with the African champions.
Cameroon's duo of Adala Moto and Felix Bogmis proved to be important pieces for Cameroon with the former averaging 14 points in three games while Bogmis was determinant offensively contributing 11 points per contest.
At the age of 36, Angola shooting guard Olimpio Cipriano proved he still has a lot to offer.
In addition to his insistence in finding the open man, his clutch shooting made a tremendous difference for Angola.
These were my top performers. Who were yours?
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