10 players to watch out for at FIBA AfroBasket 2017
DAKAR/TUNIS (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - FIBA AfroBasket 2017 tips off on Friday and as always there will be a number of talented players to watch out for.
Over the next nine days, 16 teams will do battle for the right to be crowned the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 champions on Saturday September 16.
Dakar and Rades - on the outskirts of the Tunisian capital of Tunis - will serve as the meeting point for some of the African continent's most talented players. From ones plying their trades in minnow African leagues and all the way to the NBA, this year's edition of Africa's flagship competition features a variety of talents and FIBA.basketball highlights 10 of them.
1. Gorgui Dieng - Senegal
Arguably one of the biggest talents in modern African basketball, Dieng is chasing a history-making moment at FIBA AfroBasket.
Two years ago, as one of the two NBA players in the tournament, he did a bit of everything for Senegal. However, an 88-79 over-time Semi-Final defeat to eventual champions Nigeria, followed by an 82-73 loss to hosts Tunisia in the 3rd Place Game left the Minnesota Timberwolves big man with a sense of unfinished business.
As such, it wasn't really a surprise when he recently said to FIBA.basketball: "If I am going to play, it's to win it. I am not going to go there and just play. I want to go and win it all. It's as simple as that."
Can Dieng help Senegal end a two-decade drought with an African title? The next few days will tell.
2. Carlos Morais - Angola
As a six-time FIBA AfroBasket participant and former tournament MVP, Morais is the man that Angola will look for inspiration in Dakar and then in Rades, if they make it to the Quarter-Finals.
Ever since they claimed their first continental title in 1989, the 11-time African champions Angola have never gone two FIBA AfroBasket events in a row without winning one. And Morais' experience and leadership should come handy to Angola.
3. Ike Diogu - Nigeria
As the only 'survivor' from Nigeria's 2015 title-winning team, Diogu has become an emblematic figure in Nigeria's rise to the top of African basketball.
While he has played major roles on and off the court, he spent the entire FIBA AfroBasket 2015 on the sidelines after suffering a leg injury days before the start of the competition.
Can Nigeria successfully defend their African crown? The former NBA player might have a say.
4. Maurice Ndour - Senegal
Often described as one of Senegal's biggest talents, Ndour has responded to the accolades with terrific performances at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 before making a splash at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila.
Nevertheless, it's the FIBA AfroBasket title that most Senegalese fans have been waiting for two decades.
In his first FIBA AfroBasket appearance, Ndour - who last played for the NBA's New York Knicks - will aim to make a splash.
5. John Wilkins - Morocco
The American-Moroccan, a 6ft 8in (2.04m) power forward who played college basketball at Illinois State University and currently plays for Moroccan side Chabab RIF Hoceima, will make his FIBA AfroBasket debut.
Morocco point guard Mustapha Khalfi said of Wilkins: "He’ll really change the way we have been playing in recent years. He's a tough player and a really good three-point shooter. I think he will help us a lot, he is a gift from God for us (laughingly).
6. Sekou Dembele - Mali
For years, the Malians have been asking for a rebuilding job of the national team. And Dembele, who made his world introduction two months ago at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017, is just one example of what's coming from Mali's grassroots programs.
7. Souleyman Diabate - Cote d'Ivoire
If you are keen to watch a terrific ball handler, then keep your eyes on Cote d'Ivoire points Diabate, who is set to make his sixth straight FIBA AfroBasket appearance.
8. Makram Ben Romdhane - Tunisia
Tunisia may be heading to the tournament without Michael Roll and Salah Mejri, but the Tunisians trust in Ben Romdhane.
A power forward who has played a key role in Tunisia's rise to prominence in recent years, the 28-year-old is the unquestionable team leader with a mission of helping Tunisia win their first FIBA AfroBasket title in their third editions as hosts.
9. Cedric Mansare - Guinea
If you ever wondered how Guinea emerged out of nowhere to be in a position to compete against Africa's top 16 national teams, take a closer look at the FIBA Africa Zone 2 qualifiers.
Obviously, Guinea were one of the two wild cards recipients - along with Rwanda - but that doesn't diminish Mansare's talent. He was huge during the qualifiers, although they fell short in the second-round against Mali and Senegal.
10. Myck Kabongo - DR Congo
Think about a skilled ball handler and you are likely to find one in Kabongo, a point guard who has spent the past few summer leagues trying to make it to the NBA.
He is set to make his FIBA AfroBasket debut and as result change of the course of his country's basketball history, who last played in the competition a decade ago.