Smouha's Sarhan: ''Our expectations are very high''
ALEXANDRIA (Egypt) - With two new additions, Smouha Sporting Club are aiming high at this weekend's Africa Basketball League (ABL) Group D in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Former D-League player Augustine Okosun and Adamu Saaka joined the Alexandria-based team in attempt to secure one of the top two places in the group.
The Egyptians will face hosts Club Omnisport Police Nationale (COSPN), Petro Atletico de Luanda from Angola and ASB Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Madagascar!! We are coming🏀🤩@AfricaLeague #AfricaLeague #POA #فخر_اسكندرية pic.twitter.com/cLp8GJUwez— Smouha SC (@SmouhaOfficial) February 12, 2019
For Smouha ace Marwan Sarhan, it's all about staying focused and bring their A game to return home with a ticket in the Elite 8 knock out stage.
"We are well prepared and our expectations are very high," Sarhan said to FIBA.basketball.
"We have the chance to compete at a higher level and we will rise to the challenge. We are taking every game at a time as a step closer to our target. I expect the team not to take any of the games for granted and we will get our message across right from the start."
The Egyptians reached the ABL Final Round after finishing second at FIBA Africa Zone 5 qualifiers late last year in Tanzania.
Now, Sarhan admits, the challenge is even higher.
"At the early stage of this competition, it’s hard to scout your opponents. However, I am expecting three tough games in Group D. Petro de Luanda are known to be one of the best teams in Angola. COSPN are the championships of Madagascar and AS Mazembe are the championships of DR Congo. There is no such an easy game."
Smouha will open their Group D campaign facing ASB Mazembe on Friday 15 February.
"I am very proud to be a part of the first edition of the new model of the FIBA ABL," the 1.99m (6ft6in) forward explained.
"I believe the new version is going to be very competitive and tough for the teams to qualify as the number of the participating clubs has increased to sixteen. Every team have to give their best in every game and be consistent in order to make it to the next round."
The FIBA AfroLeague 2019 Zone 5 Qualifiers All-Star Five ⭐️— Africa Basketball League (@AfricaLeague) October 9, 2018
Quinton Dogget (Al Ahly 🇪🇬) MVP 🔥
James Justice (Smouha 🇪🇬) Best scorer with 118pts
Englibert Beleck (REG 🇷🇼)
Marwan Mohamed (Smouha 🇪🇬)
Kami Kabange (REG 🇷🇼)
➡ https://t.co/38lhRGoFFh pic.twitter.com/LG6W3VupRO
With Egypt champions Al Ahly moving on to the ABL knock out stage after claiming a 2-1 in Group C last week in Cairo , Sarhan shared his views on the new competition.
"I had the chance to watch most of the games of Group C which was a really tough group. I knew it wasn’t about to be easy on any of them. D'Agosto is one of the best teams in Africa and have an experienced squad that's been competing on a high level. We played against Al Ahly and REG at FIBA Africa Zone 5 and we had to fight every possession till the last second. It was fun watching Group C battle and we got to sense how the rest of the competition is going to be."
Asked to describe Smouha's squad, Sarhan called it a group "full of young and talented guys who worked really hard to finish as a runner up in the league.
|Smouha Sporting Club's roster for FIBA Africa Basketball League 2019 Group D|
|Sherif El Diasty||Mohamed El Koussy||Raouf El Safawany||Ahmed Faraq|
|Omar Farag||Hamad Fathy||James Justice||Augustine Okosun|
|Ashraf Rabiaa||Adamu Saaka||Tamer Shahin||Marwan Sarhan|
"We are trying to make history for our club in Egypt and Africa as well. It was the first time for us to participate at the FIBA Africa Zone 5 Qualifiers and we managed to make it to the Round of 16. The club is supporting us in all ways and we will not disappoint them and going to advance to the Elite 8."