The 2023 Women’s Afrobasket is underway. It kicked off this Thursday, July 28 in Kigali, Rwanda. Three-time defending African champions, Nigeria are undoubtedly the big favorites. But since their triumph, many players have dropped out. Do the D’Tigress have what it takes to win a 4th title in a row? Recent problems within the squad are not helping. What can we expect from a new champion in the Rwandan capital? African runners-up Mali are in pole position to claim the crown.
The Women’s Afrobasket kicks off this Friday, July 28, in Kigali, Rwanda. Three-time African champions Nigeria are aiming to make it four and equal Senegal’s record. A difficult task, given that the D’Tigress are completely depleted. Only four African champions have made the trip to Rwanda. On top of that, there are the constant problems of bonuses. This could leave the way open for a new African champion.
Mali to end 16 years of disqualification?
In any case, Mali are well placed to dethrone Nigeria.The Malian team is looking for its second title, 16 years after its first.Reigning African runners-up, Mali field a young and talented team. Led by playmaker Djeneba N’diaye, the team also relies on nugget Sika Koné. The 2017 African U16 champion from Mozambique will be making her second appearance in the tournament.Koné, 20, is a sure thing on the Malian basketball scene. She was drafted into the WNBA, notably by New York Liberty last year.Mali will also be able to count on Mariam Coulibaly, best pivot at the previous edition in Cameroon. The Malians share Pool C with Uganda and Senegal. Their first objective is to qualify directly for the quarter-finals.
Senegal in search of a 12th title
Senegal is competing in this Afrobasket with a new generation.Even so, a number of key players, such as Aya Traoré, Oumou Khairy Sarr and Fatou Dieng, have returned. Ejected from the podium at the last Afrobasket in Cameroon, the Lionesses will be looking to bounce back. They are aiming for a 12th continental title.However, only four players from the last Afrobasket are present.Beating Mali in Pool C is the first test for Moustapha Gaye’s players.
Mozambique on the rise
Mozambique could spring a surprise at this Afrobasket.The Mozambicans dominated the Zone 6 qualifiers, beating Angola twice. The 2013 African vice-champions are relying on young, experienced players, including the return of Leia Dongue. The latter will be making her fifth appearance at the Afrobasket. Tamara Seda, Chanaya Pinto and Delma Zhita are also formidable players. Mozambique share Group B with Cameroon and Guinea.
Cameroon to play party spoilers
Cameroon is on the rise. The Cameroonian team could cause problems for the Afrobasket favorites. WNBA player Ducly Fankam is spearheading the Indomitable Lionesses. The 23-year-old Seattle Storm resident helped propel Cameroon to the podium at the last Afrobasket. The Central African country has other players who could do Kigali a great deal of harm. These include wing Marguerite Effa and full-back Jessica Thomas. Cameroon aim to go one better than 2021. The Cameroonians have also prepared well, even beating Turkey U20.
Angola to bounce back?
Angola have lost some of their superb form. The two-time African champions (2013-2015) are even in decline. The Angolans finished only 8th at the last Afrobasket. Worse still, they finished 2nd in the Zone 6 qualifiers behind Mozambique. However, with a heavily reshuffled team, Angola is aiming to be in the top 4 at this edition. And veteran Italee Lucas will be among them.