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Unforgettable moments of African basketball in 2018
SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - With 2018 almost done, it's time to review some memorable moments that marked Africa's basketball over the last twelve months.
From continental to world stage competitions, 2018 has entered the history books as the year of the resurgence of African basketball.
Nigeria Women's national team
For years, Nigerians believed they could compete against some of the biggest basketball nations in the world.
When that opportunity came about last September at FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Spain, the African champions not only proved a competitive side, pushing some top-10 ranked teams to the limit, but they also did what no other African country had done before.
The Nigerians shocked the world by reaching the Quarter-Finals of the 16-nation event thanks to wins over Argentina, Turkey and Greece.
Oumar Ballo and Siriman Kanoute
The FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup became known as the platform where some future stars first make their names heard internationally.
Andrew Wiggins, Bradley Beal, Dante Exum, Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, just to mention a few, all have featured in the competition before they embarked on successful careers.
Earlier this year, Mali's duo of Oumar Ballo and Siriman Kanoute took their chances, making their presences felt in the Argentina showpiece by finishing as the tournament top leading scorers.
Ballo went farther by breaking the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup rebound record by 10 as he grabbed 32 boards to go with 32 points in a loss to Dominican Republic in the Classification 9-12.
And to complete his stellar performance, the 16-year-old was named to the All-Tournament team along with MVP Jalen Green, Vernon Carey Jr, Killian Hayes. and Andre Curbelo.
Although the Congolese missed out on qualification for the Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers, their performances in the June-July window in Cairo, where they beat Angola and hosts Egypt, indicated that this is a country that could easily become a top-5 ranked team on the continent of Africa.
Hopefully, they will learn from their mistakes in order to join the African basketball elite.
Nigeria men's team
For the first time, Nigeria men's team hosted meaningful FIBA games on home soil thanks to FIBA's new competition system.
The No.1 team on the continent of Africa organised windows three and four of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers, and and they couldn't have done it better by winning all six games from across both qualifying windows.
In the process, Nigeria secured their first World Cup ticket since 2006. They are joined by Angola and Tunisia, while two other World Cup spots will be determined in the final qualifying window in February 2019.
It was about time for Senegal to replace the historical and obsolete Marius Ndiaye stadium.
Local authorities teamed up with foreign investors to deliver the much-awaited sports venue.
CEO of Türk Eximbank; @adnyildirim: "The Dakar Arena will contribute to the development of the country's and region's cultural and sports activities." https://t.co/i9SrV9niYG pic.twitter.com/h9Sfo6oXGP— Türk Eximbank (@Turk_Eximbank) August 9, 2018
And the launching of the new arena four months ago in the outskirts of the capital Dakar came at the right time for basketball in the basketball-mad country.
Mali youth teams
Mali achieved an unparalleled success this year after winning both Africa's Men and Women U18 Championships.
Mali takes down Senegal and wins the FIBA U18 African Championship. Amar Sylla and Biram Faye both showed flashes of what makes them NBA prospects. Really impressive game (19 pts, 10 reb) from Fousseyni Drame who goes to high school at Our Savior in Long Island as a 2019 recruit.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) September 2, 2018
While their women's team travelled to Mozambique to beat the host nation to claim their seventh continental title, Mali men's team outclassed Guinea, Uganda, Egypt, Libya, DR Congo, Tunisia, Angola and Senegal in their capital city of Bamako to win their first-ever U18 African title.
Ferroviario de Maputo
At club level, Mozambique's Ferroviario de Maputo shook up FIBA Africa's second most important club competition in front of their home fans.
After finishing in the third-place in the previous two editions of the FIBA Africa Women's Champions Cup, Ferroviario de Maputo finally shocked Inter Clube de Luanda (the most successful club in the competition history) to become the first local club to win the trophy since 2012.
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