A week ago, Africa celebrated the first-ever NBA game played on the continent held in Johannesburg, South Africa, but in the next two weeks, African basketball stars will travel up North for the 2015 edition of African championship, the AfroBasket.
The FIBA Africa’s elite tournament will run from 19 to 30 August in Tunisia, and will serve as a qualifier for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Obviously, there will be no Chris Paul (USA) or Pau Gasol (Spain), but some of the 16 national teams participating in the tournament will be represented by aspiring, current and former NBA players.
Dallas Mavericks new recruit Salah Mejri, who became the first Tunisian to be signed by an NBA team, will be in the spotlight not only for his recent success with Spain giants Real Madrid, but also because the host nation will be competing for its second continental title since 2011.
And, the man who was voted Africa’s MVP player four years ago is expected to take a leading role.
But, Tunisia will face a fierce competition from teams such as Nigeria, Senegal and Angola.
The Nigerians should count with the services of former Los Angeles Clippers Ike Diogu – the team leading scorer and rebounder over the past three years -, Al-Farouq Aminu, who will wear the Portland Trail Blazers uniform in the upcoming season, and will be coached former NBA D-League Bakersfield Jam coach Will Voigt.
Minnesota Timberwolves centre Gorgui Dieng, a 2009 Basketball Without Borders Africa camper turned professional basketballer, is currently Senegal’s most impactful player, and is likely to feature for the team that best represented Africa at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
Although Cameroon are among the frontrunners, it remains to be seen whether or not Luc Mbah a Moute will represent his country in Tunisia.
The 28-year-old, along with the National Basketball Players Association, is reportedly disputing Sacramento Kings decision to void his contract for an alleged failed medical physical. The clock is ticking for Mbah a Moute.
No matter who wins this year’s AfroBasket, one of the biggest winners will be the growth of the game as well the NBA commitment to spread and encourage its players to develop the game in the continent.