Eight players to watch out for in Window 2 of the World Cup African Qualifiers
DAKAR (Senegal) - The level of basketball in African has risen sharply in recent times, and a big part of it has to do with the quality of players suiting up for their national teams.
Ahead of Window 2 of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers in Dakar (February 25-27), we take a close look at eight players to watch out for in the Senegalese capital.
Brancou Badio (Senegal)
Ever since Senegal head coach Boniface Ndong - who is unavailable for Window 2 of the Qualifiers - gave Badio a starter role at 2021 AfroBasket the then 22-year-old shooting guard rose to the occasion.
The 1.89m (6ft 3in) looked fearless, confident and abundantly talented, just what Senegal needed at the guard position.
And about his numbers?
Well, the former FC Barcelona player, who has recently joined Skyliners Frankfurt in Germany's Basketball Bundesliga, averaged 15.8 points, 5.5 assists and a 17.3 efficiency rate per game as Senegal claimed a Third-Place finish in the last African Championship in Kigali last September.
Joel Ntambwe (DR Congo)
Strong defensively and ferocious offensively, the 23-year-old continues to try to find his spot in the talented-ridden DR Congo squad.
You might wonder what Ntambwe has been up since his debut with the Leopards at 2021 AfroBasket, where averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 20 minutes per game.
As an example of his passion for his national team, the 2.03 (6ft 8in) who has recently joined the NBA G-League, Delaware Blue Coasts accepted a call to suit up for the Congolese in Dakar.
Haytham Khalifa (Egypt)
Think about a big man with an easy long-range shot. That's one Egypt's blessing of having the 2.07m (6ft 9in).
If Khalifa is healthy for the Dakar showdown he will be a massive addition to the Pharaohs.
The 34-year-old power forward is one the few players on this Egyptian squad - alongside Youssef Shousha, Amr Gendy, and Moustafa Elmekawi - to have featured at a FIBA Basketball World Cup back in 2014.
Mourad El Mabrouk (Tunisia)
When it comes to analysing Tunisia's potential, the likes of Salah Mejri, Makram Ben Romdhane, Michael Roll and Omar Abada, often comes atop.
However, three-point specialist El Mabrouk is the team's silent killer, who often comes up with lethal three-point shots.
Perhaps El Mabrouk's most memorable shot happened against Morocco when he rescued host Tunisia from an imminent elimination in the Classification Round to the Quarter-Finals of the 2015 FIBA AfroBasket.
The 35-year-old, who has been key to Tunisia's three AfroBasket titles, is the type of player that can't be left unguarded for a second.
Landry Nnoko (Cameroon)
Fresh off a 2022 FIBA Intercontinental Cup Second-Place with San Pablo Burgos, the 27-year-old has become a massive asset for his native Cameroon.
Last week, the 2018 G League Defensive Player of the Year, was huge for the Spanish outfit, contributing a team-high 7.3 rebounds and an efficiency rate of 10.7 per game, the team's second highest.
The 2.07m (6ft 9in) made his Cameroon debut at 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers.
Olivier Shyaka (Rwanda)
Ever since the soft-spoken Shyaka debuted for Rwanda at 2013 AfroBasket in Abidjan he has become part of the team's fabric.
REG basketball will represent #Rwanda in the Basketball Africa League #BAL2022 after dethroning Patriots to lift the 2020/21 BK Basketball National League title on Saturday.— The New Times (Rwanda) (@NewTimesRwanda) October 31, 2021
Power forward Olivier Shyaka was named the season's MVP.https://t.co/CffhvGk0yJ
Shyaka, a 2,00m (6ft 6in) power forward has been named MVP of the latest edition of the Rwandan National League, a huge morale booster heading to the African Qualifiers.
Nuni Omot (South Sudan)
One of South Sudan's biggest absences at 2021 AfroBasket was Nuni Omot, and if he is healthy and available for Dakar, opponents must be wary of his offensive skillset in the painted area.
Omot debuted for South Sudan in last year's AfroBasket Qualifiers averaging 15 points and 2.3 rebounds in three games.
The 2.06m (6ft 9in) who gave Nigeria a hard time with 27 points in the AfroBasket Qualifiers, would be a massive addition to the newest country in Africa.
Joel Awich (Kenya)
It looks like Tyle Ongwae - Kenya's all-round player - will sit out Window 2 of the African Qualifiers, but if Awich is available, then Team Morans have little to worry about.
In two 2021 AfroBasket Qualifiers, Awich made his presence felt in style, averaging 15 points per game, which included 13 points against former African champions Angola.
Let the Dakar showpiece begin.