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Top 5 players, Title race and a Three-Peat dream - a FIBA Africa Basketball League 2019 tale (by Wayne Arnolds)
LEEDS (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - With less than two weeks for the FIBA Africa Basketball League 2019 FINAL Four, I invited Wayne Arnolds to shed light on a competition that he has become a household name in recent years.
The tournament will take place in the Angolan capital city of Luanda from May 24-26, and four teams from four countries - including reigning African champions Association Sportive Salé of Morocco, Tunisia's JS Kairouan, Egypt's Smouha Sporting Cub and Primeiro D'Agosto of Angola - will do battle for the right to be crowned this year's kings of African basketball.
After inspiring Egypt's Al Ahly to their first-ever FIBA Africa Champions Cup in 2016 and being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, Arnold didn't rest on his laurels, and sought a new challenge in the North West part of Africa where he signed for Moroccan side Association Sportive Salé. A few months later, the 1.93m (6ft4in) shooting guard added another trophy to his cabinet by helping the Moroccan champions in the 2017 Africa Champions Cup.
A year ago, Wayne Arnold lifted @Ahly_Basketball to the #FIBAACC 2016 title. This week, he is carrying Morocco's AS Sale as never seen before. Can he retain his #FIBAACC #MVP award? @FIBAACC pic.twitter.com/fK53nLcetM— Júlio Chitunda (@JChitunda) December 13, 2017
Fast forward to the present day, and the prolific three-point shooter, who turns 35 on Thursday, May 16th, explains what it feels like to be in a position of chasing his third straight African title.
We have a very experienced team. Not only competition experience but experienced in winning. That type of experience is extremely valuable in these situations. In 2016, we were down 16 points in the second half against a tough Etoile Sportive Rades team in the final. This team has a lot of heart and will to win. Also, we were unselfish and very balanced to pair nicely with so many weapons. We consistently stay together through everything, whether good or bad. Our mindset right now is simple: It's to continue to get better as individuals and as a team everyday.
This is probably the third time in my career where I've had opportunity to three-peat. The first two times I've come up short. The first time was in High School. I wasn't able to win the state title my senior year. I was going through a tragic time and came up short. The second time was while I was playing in Japan. We lost in the Championship to the team we had beaten the year before in the final. They wanted it a little more than we did. With the sour taste of defeat still in my mouth from those times. I'm focused and energized to not let it happen again.
All four teams in the Final Four have serious chance of winning the title. JS Kairouan has a dangerous team. They have lots of shooters and a nice pick and roll game with a real vertical threat.
Primeiro D'Agosto is a very experienced team and they are playing at home. They are a well rounded team and the guys seem to know and buy their roles. Also, they have a great player running the show.
Smouha Sporting Club is also a very dangerous team . They seem to have a three-headed monster over there with their imports, but they also have very formidable Egyptian players who compete at a high level.
[As for top five players] I'm gonna exclude anyone from our club. In no particular oder, and according to the numbers: James Justice Jr. and Adamu Saaka (Smouha SC), Maodo Nguirane and Ahmed Dhif (JS Kairouan) and Manny Quezada (D'Agosto).
Stay stunned for the latest on the FIBA Africa Basketball League 2019 FINAL FOUR.
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