By Farayi Machamire
GABORONE – The Egypt Under-17 basketball team believe their fledgling careers are headed for dizzy heights after scooping their country’s first African Youth Games gold medal here in Gaborone. The North Africans arrived in the landlocked southern African country with huge expectations back home and lived up to the billing, beating rivals Mali 17-14 in the final on Tuesday. That performance came on the backdrop of a 13-10 semi-final victory over Zimbabwe.
Earlier on, the Amr Ashour coached side had made easy pickings of Algeria 21-11, thrashed Mauritius 21-1, edged Angola 16-14 and crushed Zimbabwe 21-7. Their spoils were largely due to the exploits of charismatic point guard Nada Gasser whose incise play made her teammates look smarter. Forwards Raneam Mohammed and Nour Ali were oasis baskets as the young side went through the tournament unbeaten. The gold medal added another accolade to Egypt’s already bountiful basketball trophy cabinet with the North Africans boasting of seven Olympic appearances and holding a record 17 FIBA Africa Championship medals.
However, after a flawless performance, the rising teenagers feel they can make their own history and perhaps go further than their predecessors. “We only have one 17-year-old player and the rest are under 17 so it is a youthful side. It is really good competition. They played well. I appreciate that,” said coach Ashour. “When we came here our aim was to win gold and I’m happy we went on to achieve that.”
Up next is the FIBA 2014 U17 World Championship for Women where the teenagers will be flying Egypt’s flag high as one two African representatives at the event. Egypt qualified for the youth basketball world showpiece after losing 61-62 to Mali in a dramatic final of the FIBA Africa U16 Championship for Women. At the FIBA Africa U16 Championship for Women, Egypt will be part of a 16-team line-up. Point guard Gasser, pivots Mohammed and Ali will be the North African’s star players to watch for as they make their debut.