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As we continue our Around the World series, looking ahead toward the major FIBA international events later this summer, it’s time to take a peek at AfroBasket 2017.
There won’t be many recognizable names and we’re not going to go too in-depth with this preview, but here is an overview of some basic background information on the tournament.
The tournament opens up on Aug. 19, concluding on Aug. 30.
Angola, the host country has the most titles in AfroBasket history, winning 11 gold medals. Angolans are not happy about missing out on the last two Olympics and will be especially motivated to return to glory in front of their home fans.
However, Nigeria has been the hottest team of late, winning the tournament for the first time in 2015 and representing Africa in two consecutive Olympic appearances in 2012 and 2016.
In 2016, Nigeria upset Croatia, finishing with a 1-5 record in Rio. Nigeria buried 17 three-pointers in that win and with streaky shooting like that, they can erupt on any given night in this AfroBasket tournament.
Guys like Chamberlain Oguchi (2015 AfroBasket MVP) and Ike Diogu figure to be in the mix of the biggest impact players in the tournament.
It’s unclear if the roster will look close to the same as last year’s Olympic squad, but Nigeria is one of the contenders heading into this tournament.
Tunisia is usually a safe bet in AfroBasket, having won 21 medals (in 30 events) since the tournament started in 1962. Dallas Mavericks big man Salah Mejri is set to return to national team play for the first time since 2015, when his tournament was cut short.
Mejri suffered a leg injury, forcing him to exit the game and miss the third place game. He won AfroBasket MVP in 2011 and he’s a candidate to do the same this year.
Another team to keep an eye on is the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If Emmanuel Mudiay and Bismack Biyombo choose to participate (which is a very real possibility), then look out. The DRC could be in for a big tournament.
2017 marks the DRC’s first AfroBasket appearance in 10 years and the nation has yet to earn a medal in the tournament. We’ll see if the two NBA stars decide to join the squad. If they do, it catapults the Congo to the top of the pack.
Egypt also figures to be in contention. Egypt went 6-1 at AfroBasket 2015, but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Angola. Egypt won a silver medal in 2013 and has one of the most talented players in the tournament on its roster: starting point guard Ehab Amin.
The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 16.9 points per game at Texas A&M Corpus Christi in 2016-17, his junior season. Amin averaged 11 points per game in AfroBasket 2015, scoring 18 points on two separate occasions.
As he goes, so will Egypt.
It’ll be interesting to see which NBA names emerge over the next few weeks, but as is the case with all international basketball, even if there are no stars on the court, any time you get to see players putting it all on the line for pride of country, it makes for some highly entertaining competition.
We’re roughly two months away from tip-off and we’ll check back on updates and roster progress in the coming weeks.
Stay tuned for later editions of Around the World, in which we’ll preview FIBA AmeriCup and EuroBasket.