Petro Atletico

Neto and Petro have a thirst for continental success

Angolan giants ready to start from scratch

PETRO de Luanda have a burgeoning thirst brewing inside of them. It’s a thirst that can be quenched by winning a trophy at the continental level.

The Angolan super club last saw an African title decorate their trophy cabinet eight years ago (2015). So after a couple of near misses, could this be the year their continental trophy drought ends?

In the last two editions of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), the two-time FIBA African Club Champions Cup winners have fallen short at the knockout phases of the competition. Instead of living by the creed of third time being a charm, the Angolan club’s coach Josè Neto feels his team needs to start from scratch.

“Yes, we made it to the semi-final in the first edition and the final in the last edition. But we are not entitled to anything in the third edition. We have to start from the bottom. Then we have to try and climb our way to the top,” said the Brazilian coach on Thursday.

Solo Diabate
Two-time BAL winner Solo Diabate is a key part of Petro’s BAL mission. Picture: FIBA

Petro are in the middle of their domestic league, and the consistent run of games serves as good preparation for the BAL, which tips off in Dakar, Senegal (11-21 March). Under Neto’s guidance, the 15-time Angolan league champions have gone on a 59-game unbeaten run domestically, which ended after a 97-95 loss to Inter Clube.

Neto attributes their brilliant run of form to the system in place at the club.

“We are in our third season and had our first loss after 60 games last month. So, one loss after 60 games is a testament to the quality of the work we have been doing. It’s not just the defeat and the wins. It is also how we have been playing. It shows that it works for us,” said the two-time Angolan league-winning coach. “So our style of play gives us hope that we are on the right track and can continue winning games.

“Also, consistency is important, in my opinion. So once we have established that and every player understands how we want to play, it’s a big push forward.”

As Petro prepares to capture a maiden BAL title, they bolstered their squad with a couple of signings. Landing the services of Cote d’Ivoire super star point guard Solo Diabate and American-born small forward Damian Hollis could significantly improve the chances of the Angolan club.

Diabate, especially, comes with a championship pedigree. The 35-year-old won his first two BAL titles with Zamalek (Egypt) and US Monastir (Tunisia). Neto intimated that Diabate’s joining is crucial to the team, especially as he has developed a knack for winning.

“He knows what it feels like to win. Diabate has played at this level before, so we are thrilled to have him as part of our group and look forward to whatever positive contributions he might bring to the team,” said the 2022 BAL coach of the year. “

Petro Team
Petro’s Gerson Goncalves, Carlos Morais and Jone Pedro, right, have formed a part of the team’s core. Picture: The BTO

The Ivorian has joined experienced heads like the legendary Carlos Morais, Jone Pedro, Childe Dundao and Gerson Goncalves, who form the core of the Petro squad. The Angolan internationals played in the first two BAL competitions, and Neto says the quartet add value to the team.

“Not only have they adjusted to our way of playing, but also they have helped to pass knowledge to other players. They are like my echo to new players on how I would want the team to play,” said Neto, who won the 2014 FIBA Intercontinental title. “Only two teams have played all editions of the BAL. That is Petro and Monastir. In our club, four players have been part of this process. You would think them still being here would weaken us, but instead, they have been key in helping other players buy into our system.”

Petro, who are in the Nile Conference, which takes place in Egypt (26 April – 6 May), will face off against host club Al Ahly, Cape Town Tigers (South Africa), Ferroviario da Beira (Mozambique), City Oilers (Uganda) and Guinea’s Seydou Legacy Athletique Club (SLAC).

 

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Neto acknowledged that his team is in a tricky group as their opponents, the Tigers, SLAC, and Ferroviario, have gone through the journey of the Road To BAL qualifiers. So it is not by chance that the three teams are in the mix. He also expects Egyptian champions and league debutants Al Ahly to give a good showing on home soil.

“It’s not an easy group by any stretch of the imagination. We are in a tough group. Out of the five teams, three made it through the qualifiers. So they know what the BAL is about. Al Ahly are at home and will try to make the most of their advantage,” said Neto, a FIBA Americas League winner in 2014. “We must approach each game like a final and not think about getting to that stage. Every game we play, we should treat it as a step toward a higher goal.

“We should not get ahead of ourselves and think about the final. If we do, we may never get there this season.”

The BAL may be a few weeks away, but Neto his team has the right ingredients: a winning attitude and a hunger to win more.

“One of the strengths in this team is the desire to win. The players are thirsty for victory. They have developed and enjoy a culture of winning. So, naturally there is a thirst for more,” concluded the successful Neto.

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Morais cherishes being on the same court as Kobe

Angolan guard wants to win it all with Petro

THE path to achieving legendary status on the African basketball scene for Carlos Morais had its share of naysayers, especially when the Angolan point guard decided he was going to make a career out of the sport.

At the beginning, the voices of doubt believed, the mercurial Morais did not have the body type for basketball and concluded he would not make it as a player. Instead of giving into those voices, the now 37-year-old showed in those formative stages, he was made of stern stuff. Morais tuned out the noise from his detractors, worked hard, and has gone on to have a storied career.

Indeed, he has carved out a legacy that makes for envious reading. It also puts to shame his detractors for doubting that he belonged on the hardwood of basketball. Some his achievements include an appearance at the Olympic Games and featuring at two FIBA World Championships. He also has four AfroBasket titles to his name.

“The biggest takeaway from my career is that you can be anything you want in this world,” said the Petro Atletico captain at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus on Saturday. “When I started, I had a small build and had to improve on certain things. Many people told me I would never become a basketball player. They told me to try a different sport.

Carlos Morais
Carlos Morais believes Petro will be better prepared for next year’s BAL. Picture BAL

“I stuck with it. I believed if I put in the work and stayed committed, I would become everything I dreamt of being. And here I am now. So my biggest take away from my career is I am everything I am meant to be.”

The Angolan player’s glittering career highlights include sharing the same court with late icon Kobe Bryant and the current leading man in basketball, LeBron James. But for Morais, going face to face against the Black Mamba in the 2008 Beijing Olympics is one of the lingering moments in the memory bank of his illustrious career.

“It was an unbelievable experience to be on the same basketball court with Kobe, LeBron and other all-time greats. It was amazing. It’s an experience very few have had and something I can share with my kids when they get older. I can tell them I played against the best in the world,” said the former Angola captain. “There are so many great experiences I have had while donning the national team’s vest. But I would say playing against Kobe was by far the biggest of them all. I am a die-hard Kobe fan. Being on the same court as him was unbelievable. From the beginning to the end of the game, I was the happiest kid on the court.”

Petro Atletico
Seasoned veteran Carlos Morais, no 6, feels good about his game. Picture: The BTO

In a career that has spanned two decades and has seen him play high school basketball in the USA and professional basketball in Portugal (Benfica) and Italy (Mans Sana), Morais still enjoys playing at the elite level for Petro Atletico.

“I am feeling good about my game. We have many young players in the team. They have fresh energy, and that keeps me going. They push me to be at my best,” said the Petro captain. “It’s a pleasure to lead this team and to play at the highest level. I want to help them win.”

With the season in Angola about to begin, Morais will lead the 15-time Angolan League champions in an exhibition against the Cape Town Tigers. Petro, who faced the Tigers in this year’s Basketball Africa League (BAL), will use the game on Sunday at Mandeville, Johannesburg, to gauge themselves.

“We expect a good game. The Tigers are a good team and have a good roster. We hope to have a good game tomorrow,” said Morais. “They can help us prepare for what is coming our way in Angola. It’s a game they will look to win, but for us, it’s about being prepared, and we want to take full advantage.”

 

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A post shared by Carlos Morais (@kamoras)

On the home front, Morais also expects their rivals Primeiro de Agosto and Interclube to challenge Petro, who are two-time FIBA African Club Champions.

“I think all the teams will be stronger this year. They want to be in the same position as us. So everything we are doing is to be better than what we were last season. We expect no less from the other teams,” said Morais, who also reflected on Petro’s BAL participation.

“I think in the first season, we were not ready and did not know what to expect. We did not know the level of the other teams, but we finished third. In the second season, we made a couple of mistakes in the final. Hopefully, we will have corrected those by the time the third season starts. We believe next season will be tougher than the last, so we have to be ready.”

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