10 Maimouna Haidara (MLI), 11 Rokiatou Berthe (MLI)
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Race against time for Mali in quest to assemble formidable squad for Women's World Cup Pre-Qualifiers


BAMAKO (Mali) - Coach Oumarou Sidiya Maiga is scratching his head, wondering which players will be available to suit up for Mali at the upcoming 2024 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Pre-Qualifiers.  

While the nation is not short of basketball talent, given their exploits at the 2021 and 2023 FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cups,  the tactician is wary of missing some key players due to a clash with their school programs abroad.

The first-ever Women's World Cup Pre-Qualifying Tournaments will be held in Mexico and Rwanda between August 19 and 25, 2024.

Mali will play South Korea, Czechia and Venezuela in Group A to be held in Mexico. Group B comprises hosts Mexico, Montenegro New Zealand and Mozambique. 

The winner of each tournament will qualify for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournaments taking place in March 2026.

Oumarou Sidiya Maiga 

Talking exclusively to FIBA.basketball, Coach Maiga said: "Team selection considers all the talents we have home and around the world. The target for this assignment is to introduce as many young players to the senior team as possible because we have a good pool.  

"However, it is not all smooth sailing as some of those in the USA have school programs that sometimes clash with such assignments and we are forced to do without them." 

While he insists the focus is on having experience and competitiveness guide his call-ups due to the limited time they have to prepare, Maiga is clear that available internationals will join Mali-based player to form "a homogeneous and balanced group." 

Team Mali

In the U19 World Cup last year, Mali finished fifth and a majority of the squad members, led by Maimouna Haidara, are expected to be in Maiga's plans. 

The flamboyant Haidara did not only lead Mali to fifth, but also posted some historic performances recording 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 steals against Chinese Taipei to set the record for most steals in a FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup. 

This was only the third triple-double in the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup. This was her second U19 competition, having featured in the historic 2021 edition. 

Maimouna Haidara set a new steals record in Madrid and became the first player to reach double-digits in a game

Before last year’s show on the world stage, Haidara had already played for the senior national team in the Women’s AfroBasket 2021, where the country won silver, and the Women’s World Cup 2022.

Maiga is also hoping to have another Malian star, WNBA's Sika Kone who, since her debut in 2017,  has been nothing short of impressive for Mali. 

At the 2021 U19 World Cup in Hungary, Koné made history with Mali, lifting the African nation to its first-ever semi-final appearance in the FIBA tournament.

Sika Kone (second from right)

Her talent was there for all to see as she was selected into the all-tournament team alongside Americans Caitlin Clark and Sonia Citron after leading all players with 19.7 points per game and 14.8 rebounds.

No other African team (women or men) had ever reached a World Cup Quarter-Final before Mali's exploits. 

"In the age group competitions preparations are in-depth and work is done over time because most of the playing unit is in the country unlike in at the senior level where majority are in foreign-based. It is a different ball game, but we hope to have a good squad, and quickly," the tactician concluded. 

Mali replaced Nigeria as Africa's representative at the 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup following the D'Tigress' withdrawal. Before that, Mali had last appeared in the competition in 2010 in Czechia.