08 November 2012

ANGOLA : Mingas in race to become FIBA Basketball World Cup great

Eduardo Mingas (Angola)
Eduardo Mingas (Angola)
LUANDA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - By the time the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup tips off in Spain, former Puerto Rico international Jerome Alfred Mincy will see a number of players trying to close the gap on his personal record of having featured the most times in FIBA's flagship event over the last three decades.
During his 16-year international career, Mincy played in five FIBA World Championships (1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002) which earlier this year became the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Having made his first appearance in the tournament at the 1986 edition in Spain as a 22-year-old, he went on to bring his international career to a close at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis aged 38.
A group of former players came close to matching Mincy’s record, including BrazilianFIBA Hall of Fame inductee Oscar Schmidt (1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990), Angola's António Carvalho (1990, 1994, 2002 and 2006) and Puerto Rico's José Rafael Ortiz-Rijos (1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002).
Of the current active players, Puerto Rico's Daniel Santiago (1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010) and Argentina's Fabricio Oberto (1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010) are the ones in a position to equal Mincy’s mark.
Should Santiago and Oberto both miss out on 2014, the tournament could at least see a large group of candidates - headed by Spain's captain Juan-Carlos Navarro - become four-time FIBA World Cup performers.
Navarro, known as “La Bomba” for his three-point shooting accuracy, is expected to make his fourth appearance in the event after showing off his skills in Indianapolis, Japan (2006) and Turkey (2010).
Barring injuries, the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup should also be the fourth time playing in basketball's leading international tournament for Brazil's Leandrinho Barbosa, Anderson Varejão, Tiago Splitter, Alex Garcia and Guilherme Giovannoni; Argentinean great Luis Scola; the Angolan duo of Joaquim Gomes and Eduardo Mingas; Tall Blacks captain Kirk Penney; Puerto Rico's Carlos Arroyo; Lebanon legend Fadi El Khatib and China’s Wei Liu. All have featured at the last three editions (2002, 2006 and 2010).
However, unlike Navarro - whose country is automatically qualified as the event's host - the rest of the three-timers will have to finish in the top-places of the 2013 continental qualifier tournaments.
Mingas in reckoning
An interesting candidate looking to close in on Mincy’s record is Angola's Mingas.
For the 1.98m center, “regardless of how”, Angola want to play in Spain.
“It is an honour for me to be part of such a small group of players. I have been working very hard throughout the years and I am not planning to stop any time soon,” Mingas told FIBA.com.
“When I first played at a world championship (2002) I felt that that was the atmosphere I wanted to be, regardless of my [under]size compared to my direct opponents.”
Angola’s regular appearances at FIBA World Championships has been a result of their dominance in Africa over the past two decades. They have won 10 Afrobasket tournaments, were runners-up last year and finished third in 1997.
The current African basketball reality seems unusual for Angolans, but missing out on the FIBA Basketball World Cup does not appear to be in the minds of Mingas and his team-mates.
“We are mentally focused on restoring our African title, but we will need to do it differently. We must start working earlier rather than later. Two months preparation will not be time enough, even though I think we are still the best African team,” said the 33-year-old.
If things go wrong at the 2013 Afrobasket, Mingas pointed out that Angola “won’t give up until they win again.”
While they have 10 continental crowns to their name, the African giants' most successful run at a world championship came when they finished ninth in 2006, the first time the tournament was played with 24 teams.
In order to be among the elite teams, Mingas believes Angola have to adopt Spain’s basketball philosophy.
“Twenty years ago Spain were an ordinary team. Nowadays they are a powerhouse in most competitions, including the clubs one," he explained.
“They invested in players such as Navarro, the Gasol brothers since the early age.
“With infrastructures in place, success comes easily,” Mingas went on.
Because of Angola's dominance of Africa over the past two decades, the team has had a number of players rack up three world cup appearances to their name, including former internationals Angelo Victoriano (1990, 1994 and 2002), Miguel Lutonda (2002, 2006 and 2010) and Olympian Angola women’s head coach Anibal Moreira counts world cups showings (1986, 1990 and 1994).

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