14 - 20
August 2023
00 Paul Eboua (CMR)
to read

OPTQ's: Five players who lit it up and three ballers who broke out in Nigeria

LAGOS (Nigeria) - The FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament 2023 in Lagos, Nigeria saw some outstanding performances from some of the best players in Africa.

Here are the top five players who shone the brightest in Lagos and three other players who posted breakout tournaments in a national team jersey.

Five Players Who Lit It Up

Brancou Badio - Senegal

Tournament Statistics: 14.8 EFF; 17.3 PPG; 5.5 APG

Brancou gave it all for Senegal, but things didn't go their way and not because of his lack of effort. From making incredible three-pointers, blocking a few shots and finding his teammates in the right spot for shooting opportunities, Badio was Senegal's heartbeat during the Group Phase and the Final Round. He led his country in scoring and assists per game.

Alpha Diallo - Guinea

Tournament Statistics: 24.7 EFF; 20.7 PPG; 7.4 APG

Diallo's display throughout the tournament was a breath of fresh air for the lowest-ranked team in the competition who managed to cause the biggest upset at the event. They beat defending African champions Tunisia in a game when Diallo came up with an MVP performance. Whether Guinea fell easy to Senegal in the Semi-Finals due to fatigue or not, will never be known, but if Diallo continues to respond calls to represent his country, then Guinea have reasons to stay positive.

Jeremiah Hill - Cameroon

Tournament Statistics: 23.2 EFF; 14.2 PPG; 8.6 RPG

Credit must be given where it's due. Although Cameroon successfully advanced to the OQT on the back of a 4-0 record thanks to a team effort, Hill's name will forever be associated with this historic achievement by a nation who's best previous result was a second place at the 2007 FIBA AfroBasket. Hill did everything Cameroon needed - as his team-high stats suggest. His 14 assists in the Final against Senegal was the most of any player in the event. He also finished as the only player to record two double-doubles in Lagos.

Omar Abada - Tunisia

Tournament Statistics: 22.5 EFF; 24.0 PPG; 7.5 APG

The current leader of this Tunisian team, Abada was a one-man show in a trying to create a new identity since the country's golden generation seemed to be waving goodbye to international duties. Tunisia were prematurely eliminated in the Group Phase after a 0-2 mark, but Abada still remained as of the tournament's finest performers.

Philippe Bayehe - Cameroon‎

Tournament Statistics: 18.3 EFF; 13.8 PPG; 8.0 RPG

Bayehe has graciously embraced the new trend of big-men contributing much more than rebounding and dominating the paint. On so many occasions, he stepped outside the paint to make three-pointers - and it's fair to say that he did well with a useful 5 of 14. Bayehe recorded one double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, which helped Cameroon beat Tunisia for the first time in five meetings.

Three Breakout Ballers

Fousseyni Drame - Mali

Tournament Statistics: 14.7 EFF; 16.3 PPG; 6.7 RPG

Fousseyni and his twin brother Hassan Drame debuted for Mali's senior team in Lagos. They are often best remembered as a duo who helped Mali stun the world by reaching the Final of the 2019 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Greece. Fast forward to 2023 and Fousseyni has cemented his position in Mali's rotation as he led his country with impressive 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The future is bright for the Drame siblings. 

Paul Eboua - Cameroon

Tournament Statistics: 14.8 EFF; 11.5 PPG; 4.3 APG

Eboua perfectly epitomizes the saying 'patience is a virtue'. He went from averaging 5.8 points as a substitute in six World Cup African Qualifiers games to play a huge role at the Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in Lagos, where he contributed 11.5 points per game as a starter. If there was an award for the biggest beneficiary of Jeremiah Hill's slick assists, that award would probably go to Eboua who interpreted his teammate's pick-and-roll to perfection. Eboua has become a huge addition to Cameroon's future.

Aliou Diarra - Mali

Tournament Statistics: 12.3 EFF; 10.3 PPG; 8.3 RPG

Diarra made his international introduction during the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Season Three early this year and continues to capitalize from his exposure. He made BAL history by recording eight straight double-doubles, and when opportunities arise in front of him in Lagos, Diarra, who debuted for the Mali in this tournament, showed what he is made of as he contributed 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds coming off the bench in all Mali's three games.