U19 World Cup returnees Ballo, Sidibe to lead experienced Mali team

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BAMAKO (Mali) – Mali are ready to show that their fairytale run from two years ago at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup was not a one-off result with two of the main leaders from that team being back among the 12 players at the 2021 edition for the Africans.

Oumar Ballo, who received a spot in the All-Star Five for his performance in 2019, and Mohamed Sidibe are the headliners of head coach Alhadji Dicko’s team. The duo are just two of nine players in the extended list who play outside of Mali.  Ballo was a freshman student-athlete at Gonzaga University and has now transferred to the University of Arizona to become a Wildcat this next season. Sidibe, meanwhile. played in France’s second league ProB for Nancy.

Mali’s preliminary roster for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021
Oumar Ballo Abdoul Camara Bourama Coulibaly Ladji Kalilou Dembele Modibo Diaby
Abdramane Kanoute Cherif Kanoute Tamadjan Konate Mohamed Sidibe Allaye Togo
Foussenyi Traore Souleymane Traore

Ballo averaged 17.6 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 3. 8 blocks in helping Mali make history for the continent of Africa by reaching the U19 Final – the best previous result by an African nation having been 11th place. Also joining Ballo on the team after playing in the United States this past season are Cherif Kanoute and Fousseyni Traore. Kalilou Ladji Dembele and Souleymane Traore both played in Spain while Modibo Diaby was with Romanian club CS Universitatea Cluj-Napoca.

In addition, Ballo and Sidibe are not the only two players who have played for Mali on the international level with two others also playing at the global level. Bourama Coulibaly and Dembele were teammates of Ballo and Sidibe at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018, where the Africans faced international powers such as Serbia, United States, Australia, Dominican Republic and Argentina.

Coulibaly was Mali’s driving force in defending their title at the FIBA U18 African Championship 2020, taking home the MVP award as he averaged 11.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals. Also back in the mix from the U18 team last December along with Coulibaly are Diaby, Abdramane Kanoute, Tamadjan Konate, Sidibe and Allaye Togo.

The 2004-born point guard talent Kanoute is one of two players who helped Mali finish second at the FIBA U16 African Championship 2019 along with Dembele, The quartet of Ballo, Coulibaly, Fousseyni Traore and Sidibe helped Mali win the U16 African title in 2017 – the country’s first-ever crown at that age class.

Mali have been drawn into Group D with reigning champions United States, Australia and Turkey. The 15th edition of the tournament will run from July 3-11 in Daugavpils and Riga.


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