Twelve years on, and five FIBA AfroBasket appearances under his belt, Morocco’s Mustapha Khalfi can’t wait to play his game at the continental level.
“This FIBA AfroBasket is likely to be the last one for half of our national team, including me. So I’ll fight and do everything in my power in order to finish on a positive note -” Khalfi
If he remains injury-free, the 37-year electrifying point guard could become Morocco’s second most capped player after Zakaria El Masbahi, who counts six FIBA AfroBasket appearances dating back to 2003.
“I feel honored and proud for what I’ve given to the national team over the years,” the 5ft10in (1.78m) guard told FIBA.com.
While Morocco haven’t finished above the Sixth-Place since 2005, and they currently sit 10th in the NIKE FIBA Africa Rankings, Khalfi insists this summer’s FIBA AfroBasket could be a game-changer.
“This FIBA AfroBasket is likely to be the last one for half of our national team, including me. So I’ll fight and do everything in my power in order to finish on a positive note,” Khalfi offered.
Two years ago, Morocco recorded the highest field goal (49.8 percent) at FIBA AfroBasket 2015 in Tunis, but somehow, they finished 13th out of 16 teams.
In order to improve their chances on the offense end, Morocco have called up French-Moroccan John Wilkins, who played college basketball at Illinois State University and currently plays for Moroccan side Chabab RIF Hoceima.
“Wilkins plays position four. He’ll really change the way we have been playing in recent years. He’s a tough player and a really good three-point shooter. I think he will help us a lot, he is a gift from God for us (laughingly),” Khalfi added.
When it comes to select FIBA Africa Zone 1 strongest team, Tunisia emerge undoubtedly as the number one in the region.
So much so that last in March, Tunisia qualified for the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 after beating Morocco and Algeria, closing the regional qualifier with a convincing 4-0 record.
— Yabiladi.com (@yabiladi_maroc) March 17, 2017
“As a national team, we don’t convene as much we should have, whereas Tunisia have played at least five warm-up tournaments before the qualifiers. To be honest, as a national team, we need more activities. After each FIBA AfroBasket, we usually stay long stretches of time without seeing each other. We don’t have a professional planning, and we lack friendly games,” he said.
“The Tunisian national team has become consistent over the last ten years while Morocco have had six head coaches and four or five presidents of the federation in the last decade. This explains everything,” Khalfi concluded.