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Any of the top five teams on the continent can win the Afrobasket2013. Angola, Africa’s perennial giants, Nigeria, Tunisia Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire are the top five nations on the continent in the game but Cameroun also poses a threat. Already, these teams are not taking quest to win the championship lightly and are at the moment perfecting strategies in warm up games to ahead the competition.

 

Nigeria has never won the trophy before and this time looks more like the time to clinch the elusive title. Tijjani Umar, Nigeria Basketball Federation president says this edition in Cote d’Ivoire will perhaps be the mostcompetitive since any of the six nations are capable of winning. Umar said the tempo in the team that gave Nigeria its first and historic qualification to the Olympics in London in 2012 is still intact.

 

According to him, the federation never stopped working on the team after the 2012 Olympic Games in London. “We never stopped working on that team right after the 2012 Olympics; we have been constantly in touch with the players and the hard showed when we took the national team including new players to China for the Stankovic Cup where in spite of all the challenges, we were able to finish third. The team moved camping to Orlando, and I can tell you that of all the players that were in China, only five of them could make it to Florida. Seven have fallen by the way side. This is to tell you that we have better skills at that level because the competition is getting keener. This time, we are determined to bring the cup to Nigeria to show what we have been doing to Nigerians and the government.”

 

Happy with the build-up to the Afrobasket, Umar said despite losing by slim margins to the Venezuelan national team also preparing for the Fiba Americas championship, Umar said it was a good lesson.

 

African national teams which tend to associate their underachievement to lack of international competition as well as poor preparations are not giving anything to chance. With three weeks to go for this summer’s Afrobasket in Abidjan from August 20 to 31, most national teams have intensified practice.  To this end, a significant number of teams are currently in Europe, USA and China making the most use of facilities on offer. Even though what may be missing for some of the teams is real competition against tough opponents, perfecting strategies seem the likely motive. If for nothing, most of the big teams want to compete in the AfroBasket to grab a ticket for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

 

Tunisia which won the 2011 Afrobasketare determined to defend their African title with early commencement of preparations since June in the seven-team Mediterranean Games. The Adel Tlatli coached side finished third after squaring off against former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Italy, Serbia and Turkey in a tourney fellow North Africans Egypt and Algeria also took part. In mid-July, Tunisia played a three-team friendly tournament in Monastir. 2013 Afrobasket hosts, Cote d’Ivoire and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were there.

 

For Angola, 10-time African champions, dethroning Tunisia will be their biggest priority. So, may hit Abidjan with a slightly differentteam than that of 2011. Head coach Paulo Macedo and naturalized American-born Reggie Moore may be affected. Having commenced preparations in mid-June they are currently holding a training camp on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain.

 

The Angolans defeated on Wednesday evening Madrid All Star squad by 75-67, as part of their preparation for the tournament. The Angolan shooting guard Olímpio Cipriano was the best scorer of the game with 18 points, followed by Carlos Almeida (12) and Eduardo Mingas with 11 points. In the first half, Angola were already losing the game by 33-34. This is the third friendly match between the two teams, after the African champions having beaten their opponent in the first and second game by 87-39 and 71-57, respectively. They beat the All Stars team of Spain in the first and return legs. The African vice champions won the first confrontation 87-39 Wednesday, July 17 before reoffending Friday, July 19 with a score of 71-57.

 

This year’s Afrobasket hosts, Cote d’Ivoire announced coachNatxoLezkano replacement with Christophe Denis and started its preparations in early July in Abidjan and Palencia, Spain. Two weeks later, they took on hosts Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in Monastir. They are now in Abidjan with late arrivals Mohamed Kone, Guy Landry Edi and SouleymaneDiabate giving the team a boost. They travel to Palencia in Spain to conclude preparations.

 

All eyes will be on Nigeria no doubt after deservedly putting up a good show last summer at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) and a reasonable showing at the London Games. D’Tigers are simply the team to beat and expectations of Nigerians are high having finished third in the 9th Borislav Stankovic Cup in June. Coach AyodeleBakareis at the moment in the weeding process at a training camp in Florida where more players will be dropped for the London Olympians to join.

 

Cameroon will not be a push over at the championship having started their preparations in mid-July in Yaounde, the country’s capital but currently intensifying plans in Shenzhen, China. Last Sunday, they lost 63-62 to New Zealand despite Christian Bayang’s game-high 20 points. There won’t be major changes compared to the team that competed at the 2011 AfroBasket in Madagascar two years ago. Cameroon re-appointed head coach Lazare Adingono to replace Michel Perrin and will bank on new Sacramento Kings forward Luc Mbah a Moute to do the job.

 

For Senegal CheikhSarr who replaced Frenchman Alain Weisz hopes to pose a threat and the team is currently practising in Dakar playing two games against a France U-22 team. Senegal will play friendlies against Mali, Burkina Faso and the Republic of Congo.

 

 

 

 

 

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