SANGALHOS (Portugal) – With the usual Angolan players in their absence, the arrival of Bruno Fernando to play in the FIBA 2023 Basketball World Cup Qualifiers represents a great breath of fresh air.
Angola is currently 2-2 in Group E and has to get back on track as soon as possible if it is to participate in the sixth consecutive edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
From August 26-28 in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Fernando and his teammates will face Cape Verde, Nigeria and Uganda – three teams Angola knows well – to pursue the dream of participating in the next world championship, which will be held in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.
The 24-year-old’s last appearance with the national team was six years ago.
In the busy summer of 2016, Fernando, then a high school student in the United States, first helped Angola to its last title in the African Under-18 Basketball Championship in Rwanda, in a competition that was ultimately elected in the “5 Major” alongside his compatriot Silvio D’Souza.
A few weeks later, Fernando wore the Angolan jersey for the last time at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia.
Fernando then transferred to the University of Maryland, before being selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Since then, he has spared no effort, thanks to perseverance, to hope to represent Angola again.
What can the first Angolan in the NBA bring to his national team?
” Many things “he told FIBAbasketball in a phone interview from Sangalhos (Portugal), where Angola has set up a training camp before traveling to Abidjan.
“It’s a new experience on a completely different level. Everything is new to me: expectations and responsibilities. I also invested a lot of my time in my preparation.Fernando, who recently extended his contract with the Houston Rockets, is stuck after stints with the Hawks and the Boston Celtics.
Carlos Moraes, former FIBA AfroBasket Player of the Year and one of Africa’s best players, has not played a single match in the current qualifiers. Experienced Eduardo Mingas has retired from international service and Yannick Moreira has not played for his country since the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
Angola coach Joseph Claros insists on the need to rebuild a team to help the next generation reach their full potential.
Childe Dondau – Fernando’s teammate during the Africa U-18 competition which his country won – was instrumental in ‘Black Antelope’.
“I am happy to help, whatever the way”Fernando notes.
“If I have to score points, I will. If I have to take the rebounds, I will. If given a role, I will take it. I will do anything I can do to help my teammates and the team.”
“I am looking forward to playing and impacting both sides of the field, doing what the team needs to win. We definitely have to win these three games. I will just try to apply everything I have learned over the years to help Angola succeed.”
To be drafted into the NBA
To play in the NBA.
To play in the NBA playoffs.
To make the NBA Conference Finals.
Bruno is the maker of history 🇦🇴 pic.twitter.com/u9VwvSnI1B
—Maryland men’s basketball (TerrapinHoops) June 21, 2021
Despite missing the national team for half a decade, Fernando says his drive and passion to represent Angola has always been there.
“I am happy to be back, because I have finally found the time and opportunity to come back. Wearing this shirt feels great. I always thought about it.
“Whenever I am able to represent my country, I do so with the passion and love I have for Angola and basketball.
“I am obviously developing today on a completely different level than when I had my last assignment of choice. I can’t wait to show everyone my progress and use it to help my teammates, young and old. I am happy to be back in this group and I look forward to providing Good performance to help us achieve the goal we set for ourselves.”
Asked about the matches against Cape Verde, Nigeria and Uganda, Fernando replied: “The goal is to win. We have a firm intention to impose ourselves. We will treat all games the same way. We will respect our opponents, but at the same time we will be ourselves. With ambition, neither too much nor too little.”
Angola is one of the dominant countries in the continent, and it should qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. However, Fernando says he feels no pressure.
We are in a satisfactory position. There is no pressure. We will play, have fun and try to win matches, because in the end it will be our only way to qualify. We respect our heritage and our country, but we are also aware of our current situation. We don’t want to add unnecessary pressure. We will simply give the best of ourselves. We want That we continue our progress and we will see where it takes us.”Fernando explains.