AfroBasket 2021 - Team Profile: Senegal
DAKAR (Senegal) - Why haven't Senegal won a FIBA AfroBasket title in more than two decades? This is the inevitable and recurrent question when it comes to analysing one of the powerhouse teams on the continent of Africa.
The talent has always been there for Senegal; athleticism has been a norm for most Senegal squads over the years; reaching the knock-out stages of AfroBasket has become a common place for Senegal, however, the title of FIBA Africa's premier basketball tournament remains evasive since 1997 when they hosted the tournament in Dakar.
With FIBA Africa celebrating its 60th birthday this year, Senegal will be vying to take home its sixth AfroBasket title when the 30th edition of the tournament gets under way in Kigali, Rwanda from August 24 to September 5.
Here are some key elements about Senegal.
FIBA Ranking Men: 34th (World); 4th (Africa)
Last participation in the AfroBasket: 2017 (5 wins, 1 defeat; 3rd place)
Best result at AfroBasket: African champions in 1968, 1972, 1978, 1980 and 1997
How they qualified for the 2021 AfroBasket - Winners of Group B of the Qualifiers at 5-1.
World: Senegal have featured at the last two editions of FIBA Basketball World Cup (2014 and 2019), having reached the knock out stages seven years ago before falling short to hosts Spain in Last 16 Round.
Youth teams impact: A number of former U18 national team players - including Amar Sylla, Ibrahima Faye, Biram Faye - have featured for Senegal men's team in recent times, making their youth programme a vital source to the senior team.
History/Qualification: The five-time African champions last finished on the top step of the continental podium when they hosted the 1997 AfroBasket. Since then, Senegal have experienced ups and downs, including a ninth-place finish - their worst outcome ever in African Championship - at 2007 AfroBasket.
Nevertheless, Senegal have reached the Semi-Finals at the last three AfroBasket editions.
Four years ago, Senegal finished third for the second time in the last three editions of AfroBasket
Key Players: Gorgui Dieng, Youssoupha Ndoye and Maurice Ndour have become the team's inspirational leaders in recent years. The three are currently in their prime, and have been crucial in Senegal's third-place run at 2017 AfroBasket co-hosted by Senegal and Tunisia.
Rising Star: Brancou Badio currently plays for European juggernaut FC Barcelona. In a recent interview, Senegal head coach Boniface Ndong said of Badio: "At 21 years of age, he is the kind of player that we really need. A young Senegalese guard playing for one of the biggest teams in the EuroLeague. I am going to help him grow. Maybe he doesn't have much responsibility at Barcelona but I will give him some in our national team because the faster he grows, the better for us."
New addition: A 1.96m (6ft 5in) point guard with a terrific ball handling is everything Senegal needed when they lured American-born Pierria Henry to take Senegalese citizenship in June 2021. He was expected to make his debut with the Senegalese jersey at last month's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Begrade, Serbia, but the team pulled out the tournament after a COVID-19 protocol issue.
After helping Baskonia to the 2020 ACB title, the 28-year-old joined Turkish side Fenerbahce last month.
Head coach: Named 2005 AfroBasket MVP when his country fell to Angola in the Final, Boniface Ndong made his head coach debut in the first window of the 2021 AfroBasket Qualifiers, powering his country to a 3-0.
Ndong, who turns 44 on September 3, two days before the Final of the 2021 AfroBasket, has served as Senegal Team Manager at 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, a country where he achieved huge success while playing for FC Barcelona and Malaga.
Outlook: Senegal's five AfroBasket titles not only reflect heir successful past, but it also mirrors the team's powerhouse status on the continent.
What to expect from Senegal? The Senegalese are legitimate title contenders.
Drawn in Group D - one of the toughest in the competition - along with debutant South Sudan, Uganda and Cameroon, a winning start to the tournament would be fundamental for Senegal title aspirations.