22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
13 Tidjan Keita (GUI)
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Keita: This is not the same Guinea team from 2019 World Cup Qualifiers

ISERLOHN (Germany) - Guinea will arrive at the first window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers having made history just a couple of months ago at the FIBA AfroBasket 2021.

And Tidjan Keita insists the western African country will be ready to show it is not the same team that went winless in the last World Cup Qualifiers.


Guinea slumped to a 0-6 record in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers, with two losses against each Tunisia, Cameron and Chad between November 2017 and June/July 2018. But this will be a different National Elephants team in Angola.

"I think we are really much more talented and a tight group of guys," said the 24-year-old Keita, who did not play in either of the 2019 qualifying windows.

"The motivation is always at the highest when it's about representing your country. But this is a totally different team today. We are going to approach it one game at a time."

Keita, who plays at the German third division club Iserlohn Kangaroos, is not wrong in the least.

Guinea will have a different bounce in their step after their outstanding showing at the AfroBasket 2021 in September in Rwanda.

Keita helped the team beat Egypt 86-78 in the Group Phase and then knock off hosts Rwanda 72-68 in the Qualification to the Quarter-Finals.

The National Elephants were walloped in the final eight, losing 98-50, but they had reached the top eight on the continent for the first time since finishing fourth in the 1962 edition.

"It was history," said Keita, who averaged 6.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists in the tournament. "We really enjoyed it, but now we are focusing on the next step. It is a process that we're taking step by step."

The Guinea team in Rwanda included just three players who had played for Guinea in either of the 2019 World Cup qualifying windows: Abdoulaye Sy, Daouda Conde and Mohamed Queta. And Sy and Conde were two of four players who had also played for Guinea at the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 along with Cedric Mansare and Cheick Conde.

The AfroBasket 2021 roster also showed a glimpse of Guinea's future as the team included 2003 born power forward Mambourou Mara and 2002-born point guard Mehdi Lesbarreres, who played at the FIBA U18 African Championship 2020 and helped the country defeat eventual champs Mali in the tournament besides a tough 55-53 loss to runners-up Senegal, having led by eight points in the fourth quarter.

The National Elephants' preliminary roster also includes 2002-born Ousmane Kaba, who was on the U18 team, as well as 2001-born center Alseny Bah and 2003-born big man Thierno Sylla.

Keita said the team in Angola will be motivated to do right against some of the teams in Group C.

The opening game in Benguela will be on November 26 against Central African Republic, a team against whom Guinea came back from 13 points down and nearly beat at AfroBasket 2021 with the final score being 61-60.

"Central African Republic is one of the teams that we got to know during the AfroBasket, so we know their style of play. We had a tough loss by one point. That gives us confidence and the hunger to play them again in the World Cup qualification," Keita said.

Next up will be hosts Angola on November 27.

"We know it's going to be a physical game. And of course I also expect to play against the crowd. We will have to be disciplined,” he added.

And the last game of the window will be on November 28 against Cote d'Ivoire, who beat Guinea by 48 points in the AfroBasket Quarter-Finals.

"We have played them a couple of times already. That is a great team, and if you are not ready or exhausted like we were, it's going to be a tough night. So we just have to prepare as much as we can."

Individually, Keita is focused on doing the little things that help a team win.

"My role is to bring a lot of energy at both ends of the floor. I want to bring whatever it takes to win," he said.