Bamba ready for Mali to take the next step
BAMAKO (FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup 2017) - After making a historic splash at last year's FIBA U17 Women's World Championship, Mali are looking to light it up at the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup.
FIBA.com caught up with head coach Amadou Bamba, to find out more about the team's ambitions for this summer's tournament in Udine and Cividale del Friuli.
What do you think of the draw now you have had time to reflect?
We have been drawn in Group A along with reigning champions USA, as well as China and Italy. Even though we are in a tough group, I think it is high time for Mali women's basketball to move to a higher step and show that we have made a great progress after a pretty good FIBA U17 Women’s World Basketball Cup in Zaragoza, Spain last year.
Coach Bamba guided Mali to the FIBA Africa U18 Women's Championship last year in Cairo
Mali has won a lot of continental titles at youth level. What is your major challenge now?
We have won four FIBA Africa U16 Women's Championship titles and six FIBA Africa U18 Women's Championship titles. So we don't have anything to prove at the continental level. Our real ambition is to reach another level on the world stage. And, I think it could be determined by a good start against hosts, Italy.
What can you tell us about each of the teams in your group - the USA, China and Italy?
With their seven FIBA U19 Women's World Basketball Cup titles, the USA are clear the favorites. That's why we need to play well against Italy, one of the best teams of the upcoming tournament. They reached the final stage at last year's FIBA U17 Women's World Basketball Cup in Zaragoza - which means that we should be aware of their fighting spirit. We will also have a tough task against FIBA Asia U18 Women's champions China. Besides, we are competitors and we will fight with our best weapons to make our fans happy.
What is Mali's ambition for this competition?
We will be making our third straight appearance at the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup. Back in 2013 and 2015, we got out after the Group Phase, but this year our target is the Round of 16. It will be tough, but we can do it.
What will be your best assets for a positive outcome in Udine?
Our best weapon is team work. Playing as a team made things easier for us at last year's FIBA Africa U18 Women's Championship in Cairo. We can also rely on our defensive capabilities.
How important will the trio of Salimata Kourouma, Adama Coulibaly and Aminata Diakite be for the upcoming FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup?
For me it's a good thing to have these three players in the team. Kourouma was one of our best players last year in Zaragoza and she is also among the best scorers of the Malian top-flight women league's regular season. Adama Coulibaly and Aminata Diakite will be making their second appearance at FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup. So, if these three players stay injury free and mentally strong, we could make big noise in Udine.
Who could be the new faces in the team?
During the first part of our preparation in August, we called up some of the young players who made it at the FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship last year. Some of them have shown great ability. We also have a number of France-based players including Mariam Traore, Natacha Traore and Maimouna Dabo who could all join us.