HOUSTON (USA) – Former Senegal international Desagana Diop has taken over from Boniface Ndong at the helm of the Senegal national team. He hopes to successfully revive his country in the 2023 Basketball World Cup qualifiers in Africa.
Currently an NBA assistant coach for the Houston Rockets, Diop will make his debut at the top of the Senegalese selection at the end of the month, as part of the fourth qualifying window for the World Series.
From August 26-28, Senegal will face African champions Tunisia, South Sudan and Cameroon in Monastir (Tunisia) in the framework of Group F.
The Senegalese, who participated in the 2014 and 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, is 3-3 in the Africa zone qualifiers.
Diop, who spent 12 years in the NBA and last represented his country at FIBA AfroBasket 2009 in Libya, was one of Ndong’s assistants at FIBA AfroBasket 2021, where Senegal finished third.
Prior to joining the Rockets in 2020, the 40-year-old was an assistant for the Utah Jazz.
Dong and the Senegalese Basketball Federation ended their cooperation at the beginning of July, after Senegal left Alexandria (Egypt) with a 1-2 figure.
Diop devoted some of his time to FIBA basketball.
Desagana Diop, you have taken charge of the Senegalese national team. How do you feel? how are you ?
I feel very good and I am honored to be the new coach of the Senegal national team. I look forward to meeting the challenges ahead. I will invest a lot in this process to help the team improve and prepare it for the next qualifying window, which will be very important for us and Senegalese basketball. It has been very interesting so far and I will do my best to succeed in my mission, which is the most important in my young coaching career. Being at the helm of my country’s national team is a task that I take very seriously. I want to help the national team win and qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Under the leadership of Boniface Ndong, Senegal lost to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Egypt last July
You will replace your friend Boniface Ndong who was sacked after two defeats during the last qualifying period…
When I was approached for the position, I had to discuss it with my friend Boniface and explain to him why I was so grateful for the opportunity, while acknowledging that I was ready. He is a good friend and I love clarity and transparency with my friends. It was important for me to do this. I have learned a lot as an assistant coach for the national team and I will now take on this challenge and invest myself in achieving it. I will do my best to make my country competitive and to make everyone proud.
Senegal lost two matches – against the Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt – in the last qualifying window, a rather average performance for one of the dominant nations in African basketball.
It was hard to accept these two defeats and I’m convinced we can do a lot better than we did in July. We have to learn from our mistakes and move on to be ready for the next round, which will be crucial for us, because we are not in an ideal position. I always tell the players that we have to move on. We have to focus on our next matches and play them with a fighting spirit. We are on a mission, we want to be successful and win matches to qualify for the next FIBA Basketball World Cup. We deserve our place there, and it’s up to us to prove it at the end of August. We have no other choice but to win.
Mamadou Gueye should continue as assistant coach
What philosophy do you want to instill in the national team?
You’ve been a very defensive player so the priority will be to use great defensive strength to make it our brand. Our sport is more and more physical and defensive in which victories are formed. It is very important to be effective in defense because the upcoming matches will be crucial to keep hope of participating in FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. We are not in the position we would have liked to be, so we have to change our dynamic and win again. To succeed in changing the situation, we have to defend hard and do our best on the pitch.
South Sudan, Tunisia and Cameroon are your next opponents. What do you think of this difference?
They are excellent and we will have to play our best basketball to beat them. South Sudan leads the group and has been amazing since the start of this qualifier, having won all of their matches. He has greatly improved and shown inexhaustible confidence. It’s a very good team. Tunisia is one of the dominant countries in the continent and has a great deal of experience. Cameroon are still hoping to qualify, so we have to be very focused and play well. All of our opponents aspire to represent Africa in the World Championship. The next six matches will be particularly strong, but we will be prepared for these upcoming challenges in order to earn the right to participate in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
DeSagana Diop (left) in a match against the Central African Republic at the FIBA AfroBasket 2019
For starters, she will face South Sudan on August 26th.
We will be facing the best team in the group from the start, so we will be in the midst of that. We must be mentally prepared to fight, but I am confident in our abilities. This team is playing very well and both Luol Deng and the coaching staff have done a great job over the past two years to put together such a successful national team. We want to be on that level and we will prepare for this meeting as much as possible.
Senegal have always been among the best teams on the African continent. How do you feel about Senegal’s current position as it approaches the last two windows of the FIBA 2023 Basketball World Cup qualifiers?
We know we can do better and we will show it. There is no point in thinking about the past, we must expose ourselves to the future. Senegal belongs to the top continental nations and should always be competitive and qualify for all the major tournaments. We want to participate in the next FIBA Basketball World Cup and we will strive to be there. Trust me, we’re totally intent on getting involved. We want to be proud of our compatriots and prove that we have one of the best teams in Africa.
When you see countries like South Sudan, Nigeria, Cape Verde and Uganda for example, which have come a long way in recent years, how would you rate the current dynamics of African basketball?
I really like what I’m seeing and I’m very happy that so many teams are doing so well. This is great news for African Basketball and shows that there is talent everywhere. The level of competitiveness has grown tremendously and this is very good for everyone in Africa. This is a promising sign for the future. Qualifying for international competitions will be increasingly difficult. African basketball is advancing from year to year and we can’t help but rejoice at the current trend.