Barros hopes AfroBasket can unlock new doors

Cape Verde to put on a show for their fans

PLAYING on the big stage in sport can open new doors for competing athletes. Cape Verde point guard Alexia Barros harbours the hope that a good performance at the women’s AfroBasket will be the key to unlocking new opportunities for herself.

The 26-year-old hopes playing the lights out in the tournament which Cameroon will host (from 17-26 September) will help her achieve her dream of playing in the WNBA.

Another added advantage for the United States-born Barros is that she recently joined the New England Trailblazers, a team that competes in the Women’s American Basketball Association (WABA). Both situations give the 5ft8 guard an advantage in her quest to fulfil her ambition of playing in the elite women’s league.

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Lexi Barros believes Cape Verde can do big things at this year’s AfroBasket. Pictures: FIBA

The floor general believes she is within touching distance of achieving her goal and is hopeful that the work she has put in will yield a positive outcome.

“My dream is to play in the WNBA. I feel I am close to getting to my dream. I have to keep working hard. Work on the little things that will help my game progress,” said the former Community College of Rhode Island player.

She also relishes playing for club and country. “It’s fulfilling to play for both teams. I can’t wait to see what playing for them will do for my basketball career. The doors it can open and the new people I am going to meet. I am excited at the prospect of seeing new opportunities come alive. It feels good. I feel like something is coming.”

With the groundwork laid to work towards her aspirations, the AfroBasket tournament looms for Barros and Cape Verde.

A look-back to their route to qualifying for the women’s tournament, a stand-out feature is that the islanders had to overcome difficult odds against Guinea, Conakry in a two-legged Fiba Africa Zone 2 qualifier in June.

Both legs took place in Conakry at the Stade 28 Septembre indoor venue, in front of a raucous and passionate home crowd. Cape Verde fought courageously but lost a close first leg by a single digit (65-64). A day later, Barros and her teammates took the battle to Guinea and valiantly triumphed by a 9-point margin (68-59) to qualify for the continental showpiece.

Reflecting on the qualifiers, Barros says playing as a unit against their much taller opponents led to Cape Verde securing their ticket to Cameroon.

“That experience was marvellous, especially playing there. Guinea was a tough team and a lot bigger than us, but we managed to hold our own. We did not have our fans. We had to rely on each other and stay together. I am proud of my teammates and what we achieved,” said Barros. “Their fans were a little wild. It was a small gym, and when they scored, you heard it. There was a lot of banging and loud horns. From an objective perspective, it was a beautiful atmosphere.

“We wanted to win and show the world that we are here. What we now need is support, and we also need to keep working hard, especially for this next tournament.”

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On the subject of support, Barros, who will participate in her second AfroBasket, hopes the national federation can equally support the women’s team as they do the men. Barros believes she and her teammates are keeping their end by preparing themselves for the upcoming tournament.

“We have some players in the States and most of our players in Cape Verde, and we need to come together to build the team chemistry,” said Barros. “We work our butts off, everyone from the coach, assistants, even the people in the federation help us a lot, but it’s little things that we need.

The same treatment and profile that the boys get should also be accorded to us as well. It’s starting to change a little bit, but it can be better.”

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Lexi Barros says playing for Cape Verde has helped her personal growth.

On Cape Verde’s chances at the 12-team tournament, Barros spoke with confidence that they can outduel any opponent. She also emphasised the need for teamwork if they are to make an impression in Cameroon.

“We need to play together. I feel we can beat any team. We have a lot of good shooters. We are a guard-heavy team and rely a lot on our speed for fastbreaks. There is a lot of experience in our group and some new players as well,” said Barros. “We want to do big things this year. We want to put on a show for our fans.”

Barros also appreciates donning the Cape Verde vest, what it has done to advance her basketball career, and is using her platform as an international player to be an example for the younger generation.

“I want to go far with this team. I want to play for as many years as possible. Playing for Cape Verde has been the most amazing thing in my life,” said Barros. “The fans there really support us, and the kids look up to us.

“That’s the one thing I like the most, having the chance to be a role model here at home in the US and in Cape Verde.”

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