24 August, 2021
05 September
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AfroBasket 2021 - Team Profile: Mali

BAMAKO (Mali) - There is a trophy that is escaping the Malian men's national squad. And this trophy is the one that goes to the FIBA AfroBasket winner.

It's not for the lack of trying. But they always met with stronger or more determined teams.

Can Mali expect more than a Ninth-Place finish at FIBA AfroBasket 2021?

This time, the West Africans are back to FIBA Africa's flagship event with the sole intention of finishing well above 9th place, which they took in the last edition of the tournament in 2017, co-hosted by Senegal and Tunisia.

Mali's AfroBasket aspirations will be put to the test when the tournament gets underway in Kigali from August 24 to September 5.

In a recent interview with FIBA.basketball, Mali's captain Mahamadou Kante said that he cannot be happy with a Fifth-Place finish.

But on their way to Kigali,  they couldn't quite live up to that statement, only securing their ticket to the event through victories over hosts Rwanda.

Will they be able to live up to their expectations?

Here are some key elements about Mali:

Team: Mali
FIBA Ranking Men
: 77th (World); 9th (Africa)
Last participation in the AfroBasket: 2017 (2 wins, 1 defeat; 9th place)
Best result at AfroBasket: Third-Place at FIBA Africa Championship for Men (1972)
How they qualified for the 2021 AfroBasket: Mali got their tickets only through two more than precious victories over hosts Rwanda, which granted them third place in Group D of the Qualifiers. On the other hand, they suffered two defeats frat in the hands of South Sudan and Nigeria, who respectively took first and second place in the group.
World: Mali's men's side never made it to a world stage competition, unlike their women's national team, who featured both at the Olympics and the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup. 

Youth teams impact: It is difficult to think about Mali and not mention the golden generation who finished second in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup two years ago in Greece. Expectations are that some of those players sooner rather than later will be join the senior team, just Siriman Kanoute did in the Qualifiers.

Two years ago Mali became the first African team to reach the Final of the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup

History/Qualification: This year's African Championship will be Mali's 19th appearance at FIBA Africa's premier basketball tournament (1964, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017).

Key Players: Only one player hit a double-digit in the Qualifiers. Sadio Doucoure averaged 12.5 points per game, making him the most prolific Malian on the court during the last two games of the Qualifiers.

Two-time AfroBasket participant Ibrahim Djambo averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 and Ibrahim Doucoure contributed vital 3.5 assists per contest. 

Sadio Doucoure

New additions: Drake Reeds and Sadio Doucoure have only played during the last three games of the Qualifiers, but their impact can be measured by the numbers they produced during their time on the court. Similarly, returning Ibrahima Cherifa Haidara could add his Basketball Africa League experience to the roster.

Rising Star: Mali have a wonderkid: Siriman Kanoute, who finished as MVP in every tournament he participated in on the African stage and was featured in the All-Star Five at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. However, he needs some grooming and is a name to watch for in the future.

Head coach: Frenchman Remi Giutta is a seasoned coach who has one season in France's Pro A, to his count. However, he needs to find that perfect mix for Mali to make at the next FIBA AfroBasket.

Remi Giutta

Outlook: Malians are proof positive that they can cause some upset along the way. Hard-working by nature, they have exported their talents to Europe and the United States. However, to live up to their dreams of continental glory, they will need to overcome their Group C opposition Nigeria, rising Cote d'Ivoire, and a returning Kenya who want to be more than just numbers in Kigali. Coach Giutta has some serious homework to do for sure.