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Cape Verde prepared for dog-fight in tough group

“We are focused. We have prepared well”

JOEL Almeida’s transition to basketball came as a way of him trying something new. Like most youngsters on the African continent, Cape Verde-born Almeida started out playing football, but the basketball bug bit in his mid-teens and he never looked back.

Since then, Almeida’s career has seen him traverse different parts of the world. Beginning with the college system in the United States of America. The 35-year old would later play in his country of birth, Angola, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and now Georgia, where he plays for BC Kutaisi.

“I started playing football. I switched to basketball when I was 15. I moved to the States for junior college and later college. I then made the move to Europe to play professionally and I have been there since 2009,” said Almeida, who elaborated on his change to basketball. “I wanted to try new things. Football is the main sport in Cape Verde. But, when I was growing up, I tried many sports as well. My friends convinced me to try basketball. They saw my height and were sure I would be good at it. I tried and eventually fell in love with it.”


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Having played in the parts of the world that he has, the shooting guard is well versed in different basketball cultures, which matured him as a player.

Playing in the US and Europe, you learn that the approach to the game is different. Adapting to different styles helps you grow as a player. It gives you more experience and a different outlook. When you encounter certain situations on the court, you will know how to adjust,” said Almeida, who played for Mowhawk Valley Community College in America.

Almeida’s approach and experience will come in handy for Cape Verde. The island nation, begin the final leg of the Afrobasket qualifiers in Monastir, Tunisia today.

Holding a 1-2 record from the opening window in Rwanda last year, Cape Verde have to show a marked improvement when they tip-off against Morocco in group E. The Cape Verdeans hold the psychological edge over the Moroccans, having beaten them last year. Their two defeats in the group, came at the hands of Egypt and Uganda.

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With the absence of Ivan Almeida, this presents an opportunity for other Cape Verde players to step up. Pictures: FIBA

“We are focused. We have prepared well. Right now, we aim to take it one game at a time. So we will do our best to come out with a victory,” said Almeida. “This group is a tough one. The teams are good and balanced. You can see the results from last year’s opening window. There were no blow-outs. All the games were close, with small point differentials.”

Giving his assessment of the teams in Cape Verde’s group, Almeida says it will be an all out battle to secure spots for the AfroBasket in Rwanda (24 August -5 September).
“Morocco has competed in continental competitions for many years. They have brought in some new players for this window. They are younger and inexperienced at this level. Egypt are a powerhouse. They have great players and are a balanced team. They also have experience on their side and are also well-coached. Uganda are up and coming. They have great talent, also well-coached and are a united team. So, it’s a tough group. Every game is going to be a dog-fight,” said the former Brockport State player.

On Cape Verde’s chances of securing their ticket to the continental showpiece, Almeida believes the key is motivation.

“We are motivated to get to Rwanda. We want to be on the biggest stage of African basketball competition. This window presents us with that chance. It’s now or never,” said Almeida. “Qualifying for the AfroBasket would mean a lot to the country and our people. We want to make them proud. We want to be there. We are willing to do what it takes to get there.”

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Joel Almeida says the team are motivated and ready achieve their goal.

To achieve this ambition, Almeida, one of the statistical leaders for Cape Verde, will have to be at the top of his game. His record from the opening window reads as follows: 12.3 points per game; 5.3 rebounds per game and 3.7 assists. While Cape Verde will rely on Almeida being at his peak, the veteran player says there are other intangibles required to get the job done.

“It’s about doing whatever the team needs you to do, whether it is scoring, rebounding or passing. You do whatever it takes to help the team win. There won’t always be good days. When it’s not a good day, you have to find other ways to contribute to the team effort,” said Almeida.

One player, who has not made the trip to Tunisia, due to injury is Almeida’s younger brother Ivan. The younger Almeida leads the team in scoring (21 points per game) and rebounding (10 points per game). While Ivan’s production on the court will be missed, Joel believes it’s an opportunity for other players to step up.

“We are going to miss him. He leads us in a lot of statistical categories. He can play multiple positions. He is our leader offensively and defensively. But we are ready. It’s next man up. Now everybody needs to chip in a little extra, for us to achieve our goal,” said Almeida.

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