21st May, 2012
After Egyptian U-16 team crushed their Tunisian opponents at last summer’s U-16 Africa Championship final, their U-17 team that are preparing for the FIBA U-17 World Championship are confident of reaching the quarter final of the tourney
Playing in front of their home crowd in Alexandria, Egypt scored 100 points in five of their six games and beat Tunisia in the final by 117-67 points, the first time an African Championship final was decided by 50 points.
“My team got a lot of confidence after the wonderful result we had at the U-16 African Championship. My team was named the ‘Dream Team of Africa’ and this gives them great confidence and responsibility to represent African basketball in the best way possible,” Coach Rafik Youssef of Egypt said.
Youssef said his team’s desire to represent Egypt and Africa is their biggest strength. And the team’s goal is to advance from the Preliminary Round.
“Our dream is to get pass the first round and be among the best eight teams in the world. But we need to work hard physically and fundamentally,” Youssef warned.
Egypt has its work cut out. They beat Mozambique, Algeria, South Africa, Republic of Congo, Angola and Tunisia by an average of 57.5 points last summer. But the U-17 Worlds will be another beast.
“We have a very strong group (Group A) that involves very strong teams including three other continental champions in Australia, China and United States and Egypt,” said Youssef, whose team will also have to face European sides France and Czech Republic.
Youssef expects one of the weaknesses of his team to be the lack of experience.
“We don’t have a lot of international experience and also lack regular competition because of the political situation, even though the Egyptian federation are trying their best to make a regular season competition,” said Youssef.
Youssef further disclosed that his team would not be relying solely on the U-16 Africa Championship Most Valuable Player, MVP, Ihab Saleh, who missed the final against Tunisia due to injury, saying that his team is balanced.
“Saleh is just one of the team members. My team doesn’t depend on any player. The players believe in all their teammates and in the system. That’s why we didn’t have any problem winning the final against Tunisia even though Saleh did not play,” said Youssef.
The 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Championship will be held in Kaunas, Lithuania from 29 June to 8, July, 2012. It will be the second edition of the Under-17 World Championships.12 teams have qualified for this years edition, and they include, Egypt, China, Korea, Argentina, Canada, United States, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Australia and host nation, Lithuania.