Gabon, Central African Republic and Chad battle for AfroBasket place in Libreville qualifier
LIBREVILLE (AfroBasket 2015) - Central African Republic (CAF) forward Max Kouguere led his country to a 13th place-finish at AfroBasket 2013. Now, the 27-year-old is on a mission to help his country qualify for AfroBasket 2015, which will take place in Tunisia from 19 to 30 August.
CAF are joined by Gabon and Chad in the three-team FIBA Africa Zone 4 Group G qualifier, which runs from 3-8 March in Libreville, Gabon.
The host nation spent the past couple of weeks holding training camps in Tunisia, and aim to return to Africa's flagship event for the first time since 2005, while Chad will try to repeat their 2011 qualification.
The winner of the tournament will secure direct qualification for Tunisia 2015.
Just like Kouguere did a couple of years ago in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, France-based 21-year-old Johan Grebongo had promising performances, which led him to sign for Gravelines-Dunkerque of the Ligue National de Basket.
In Abidjan, the 1.98 swingman Kouguere, who plays for Orleans in the French topflight, averaged team-highs if 18.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per content, while Grebongo contributed 8.8 points and 4.8 boards.
CAF played undoubtedly their best game of that tournament against eventual champions Angola. They lost 85-80, but the Angolans needed to play their best.
CAF went home with a 1-4 record, but this time around they will need Grebongo's athleticism and never-die spirit in order to overcome Gabon and Chad.
The basketball progression has generated wide interest in some circles of the country with former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele among those keeping a close eye on the national team.
Centrafrique : L ' équipe nationale au tournoi qualificatif de l'Afro basket, en mars à Libreville http://t.co/apnq2Xwhdx— ZIGUELE MARTIN (@ziguele) February 23, 2015
Meanwhile, head coach Michel Perrin - who worked with the CAF side in the past few months, including a training camp in Paris last month - has not travelled to Libreville, with former international Junior Madozein expected to take charge in his absence.
As for the host nation, they may not have their most famous player, Stephane Lasme, in the squad for the qualifier, but head coach Thierry Bouanga made sure to call up 37-year-old Jason Mbourounda, who teamed up with Lasme at AfroBasket 2005.
Bouanga has blended two generations of players with a clear message of putting Gabon among the top African national teams at AfroBasket 2015.
One of the new players is Marvin Joy Mapaga, who wor the Gabonese colours at the 2010 FIBA Africa U18 Championship in Rwanda.
Gabon and CAF will square off on Day 1 of the tournament on Tuesday.
Only one qualifying place for AfroBasket 2015 is on offer.
Squads for FIBA Africa Zone 4 Group G qualifier (3-8 March) in Libreville, Gabon
Gabon: Lionel Fabre, Freddy Lyvann, Jacques Nze Digondi, Jason Mbourounda, Marvin Mapaga, Francis Kobangoye, Sylvere Abessolo, Lerry Essono Mve, Steeve Ndong, Gil Mayimba, Rodrigue Atsu and Chris Ndikouedi.
Central Africa Republic: Max Kouguere, Johan Grebongo, William Kossangué, Junior Pehoua, Dimitri Kongbo, Jimmy Djimrabaye, Wilfried Pollagba, Dan Baigo, Amadou Sissoko, Freddy Ngbonga, Yannick Sopkao, Eddy Ngoy and Severin Feibou.