10 - 13
February 2022
14 Sika Kone (MLI), 12 Iliana Rupert (FRA)
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Kone catches fire to stake claim as the best African player and eyes Top 10 of the WNBA draft

BELGRADE (Serbia) - For followers of the FIBA youth game, Sika Kone was always a viable Top 10 pick for the 2022 WNBA draft, and a perfect shooting night for Mali in Belgrade may have slienced any doubters.

Kone caught fire for the African nation in her first outing at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament with a staggering 10 of 10 from the floor as she erupted with 26 points in a 77-66 loss to France. 

Two-way phenomenon

Yet it wasn't just the shooting that turned heads. She also weighed in with 9 rebounds, as we as 5 steals, with her energy and relentless defensive effort also standing out.

It was the kind of display that will no doubt have WNBA Draft projection sites thinking long and hard whether they have her high enough on their lists. In fact, some observers and women's basketball specialists believe Kone should be knocking on the door of the top five.

It comes off the back of her spectacular performances at the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup last year when she propelled her team to history and a first ever Semi-Finals spot.

Already the best in Africa?

If her amazing showing in the Serbian capital has re-ignited a debate as to how high she should be picked in the forthcoming draft, it has also sparked a conversation about whether she is already the best African player. What is undeniable is that this is a moniker which she looks absolutely destined for.

For those unaware of her explosive talent, it may come across as just hyperbole. But hold that thought right there. Because, there's even more.

Mali head coach Joaquin Luis Brizuela Carrion believes Kone has the ability to do truly great things.

"Sika is young player, but also a great player as she showed in her 35 minutes against a leading team like France. She can play now in the WNBA because she is clearly ready and in another 4-5 years she is going to be one of the great players in the world - she could even be the greatest."

Over to you Sika...!

Kone and Mali face China on day 2 in Belgrade at 15.00 CET, while Nigeria play France at 18:00 CET.