30 July 2012

Africa: Junior Hoops Yet to Be Tested

It would be suicidal for the Junior Hoops to dwell too much into the just ended Zone 5 U-18 basketball tournament. The home team won the two-day tournament which also doubled as the 2012 Afrobasket U-18 Men's Championship qualifiers after thumping Kenya 68-29 in Game 1 and 96-34 in Game 2. However, the real test does not begin until next month in Maputo, Mozambique.
From August 16-25, Africa's top teams will descend on Maputo for the Afrobasket U-18 Men's Championship. They are, among others, Angola, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Gabon, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
After lifting the Zone 5 trophy, the Rwanda basketball federation (Ferwaba) has set the youngsters a target of finishing in the top six. This means that the team must at least reach the quarter-finals. However, this could be a little too much to ask of the inexperienced side.
Two years ago, the U-18 Afrobasket Men's tournament was hosted in Rwanda. At the time, the team was relatively stronger than what it is today but still finished a distant sixth despite all the support from the home crowd.
So what chances does Nenad Amanovic and his team have playing superior opposition away from home? Not a lot.
The Junior Hoops entered camp last week and are expected to play a series of warm-up games against top national league sides CSK and APR as well as select sides from Uganda. They will then travel to Gabon for a training camp before heading to Maputo for the tournament proper.
The chairman of Ferwaba Desire Mugwiza believes the team will be in good shape after these warm-up games.
"They have a good coach and have made tremendous progress over the last two months and I believe that this training camp will only make them better," he said. "We have set them a target of finishing in the top six but at the same time, we don't want to put them under pressure."
"All we want is for them to play freely and enjoy themselves out there," Mugwiza added.
In Maputo, Rwanda's chances will rest heavily on the shoulders of the trio of point guard Olivier Shyaka, Mohammed Rafiki and Eric Ngenzi who were without doubt the team's outstanding players against Kenya.
While conceding that his youngsters face an uphill task in Maputo, Amanovic said that the team has nothing to lose.
"No one expected us to qualifier but we did, so we shall not put ourselves under any pressure," he remarked. "All we want is to go out there and play t,"o the best of our ability."

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