Tall Order: The Basketball Giants Of Senegal

One of the most popular theories behind the sport of basketball is that it’s only played by those residing in the United States of America. Aside from the fact that this is extremely arrogant in its own right, it can also be described as ‘painfully incorrect’.

You see, unlike American football, there’s a bit more diversity with basketball because it doesn’t seem to limit itself. Because of that, nations from all around the globe flock to the courts in order to ply their trade and become an NBA superstar – with one of the more notable countries being Senegal.

That likely isn’t what you were envisaging we were going to come out with, which is understandable, but we aren’t even really here to talk about their overall quality as a team. That much is probably obvious by the fact that they’ve only qualified for the Olympics three times, peaking at 11th place, meanwhile, their FIBA World Cup record isn’t much better.

Still, they’ve got some credits to their name, with one of the most notable attributes behind their squad being height. Of course, that’s to be expected given that they’re a basketball team, but in this instance, it’s interesting to observe just how much of an advantage, or a disadvantage, you get when your line-up is as stacked as Senegal’s.

Within their national team roster, they currently have a staggering four players at 6 ft 10 or higher, in addition to two more who rest at 6 ft 6 inches. That, in itself, is absolutely staggering – although it won’t come as much of a surprise to basketball lovers out there that three of the four aforementioned players are centers.

You see that’s the predominant issue with having guys of that height on your team they’re extremely limited in what they can do. Sure, N’Diaye, N’Doye & Mbodj will all have their own individual skill sets and qualities, but when your mobility isn’t much to shout about then you’re restricted to becoming something of a one-trick pony.

It begs the question as to why the youth of today, particularly in nations like Senegal, are being thrust into a sport like basketball when in reality we should be looking at natural talent. Throughout their entire roster they only have one guy under 6 ft, and even then he’s only there because there’s a distinct lack of point guards to be found.

At the AfroBasket tournament this year they were able to claim third, but you only need to watch some of the footage from their games in order to see the issue here. They’re lumbering, short on ideas and can’t seem to formulate a consistent strategy that will see them win matches with a bit of emphasis.

But it’s not like this is a one-off thing. In fact, the 2014 World Cup and 2015 AfroBasket units were even worse. The average height of the teams were 6 ft 9 inches and 6 ft 8 inches respectively, and they did about as well as you can expect from players who resembled three-legged giraffes on acid.

We’re actually confident that there are probably ways in which you could utilise a group of players like this to your benefit, but there’s no infrastructure in place to do it. Seven head coaches in the last 12 years aren’t going to create any form of stability, and in the land of the giants, you need someone who is going to put their foot down and create a system that plays to their strengths.

Hide the weaknesses and accentuate the positives is a phrase that is extremely relevant because nations like Senegal don’t need to be doing any more than they need to. Being that physically dominant is something that can work, especially when you consider the size of a basketball court, but they need to be dynamic.

One of the major things they have going for them, as a country, is the support of the fans. As hosts of this year’s AfroBasket tournament, there was a degree of pressure on their shoulders, and the packed stadiums and arenas proved that there is a movement in place.

The national sports may be football and wrestling but the rise of basketball is evident, and it’s something that can’t be ignored anymore.

Boost the technique, boost the marketing and soon enough we could have a team on our hands that are capable of challenging the big boys. It’ll take time, but the blueprint is certainly there.