Temps de lecture : 4 mn 🕗
YAOUNDE (Cameroon) – Cote d’Ivoire’s Stephane Konate says he breaks out laughing cheerfully when he’s reminded that he is 40.
Tunisia’s Radhouane Slimane is the other 40-year-old making noises in the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers.
As Cote d’Ivoire booked their tickets for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021, Konate’s numbers translated his impact on the team. He averaged 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds after five Group C Qualifiers games in Yaounde, Cameroon.
“TAKE A DICTIONARY AND LOOK AT THE WORD LEADER, THEN LOOK AT KONATE, HE IS THE INCARNATION OF LEADERSHIP.”
And, for more than two decades Konate has been electrifying Ivorian basketball, fascinating both for country and club.
Konate is usually perplexed when anyone marvels at the fact that he’s played at six FIBA AfroBasket editions, winning silver at the 2009 expedition in Libya.
“It’s not much of a thing and at times I’m surprised that I was this fortunate to play at such tournaments,” Konate hints as he ecstatically counts by his fingers the number of continental events he’s been to.
Konate remarked in an exclusive interview with FIBA.basketball that his 16 Cote d’Ivoire Championship titles with Abidjan Basket Club (ABC), are “formidable moments.”
His story with basketball has been a romance, a love story which he’s kept waxing strong via determination, sacrifices, and a rigorous lifestyle.
Even before he turned 20, the Bouake native knew he wanted to have an illustrious career but understood he needed more than just a desire to get this aspiration to fulfilment.
“Basketball made me feel different because I fell in love with the game very young and I quickly realized that I wanted to keep doing this as long as it was possible,” Konate detailed.
“It’s required huge sacrifices. I’m very careful with what I eat, what I drink as well as how I live.
“I prefer eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, drinking a lot of water, and having enough time to rest. Trying as much as possible to be happy because that’s what gets you going amidst challenges,” he pointed out.
But even a tenuous hold on lifestyle needs to be matched with glaring adjustments to continue competing on the court.
Konate knows that the great athleticism which he possessed and that made him a constant nuisance to opponents has waned off.
Aware that basketball has become even more physically demanding, the former point guard of Egyptian outfit Gezira has had to shuffle his deck, tweaking his game to align to his age yet stay relevant on the court.
“I’ve learned how to be more accurate. I don’t try to do complicated things. There are some dribbles which I used to pull 10-20 years ago which I can’t do now.”
“Not because I don’t have the skill but because I’ll rather play simple and get more points,” Konate emphasized.
“I’ve worked on my shooting, my passing and as time goes by I’ve developed a better reading of the game. So I’m able to anticipate before something happens.
“There are games when I can quickly get into position for a three and there are other situations where I’ll rather slice the ball into the paint for an unmarked teammate for a sure basket rather than a three-point attempt that may not go in.
“When you’ve played this game for long, your decision-making gets better and often this is very helpful for the team,” the 1.94m (6ft 3in) guard explained.
Konate’s presence on the team is relished by the fans and he has an ardent admirer in Cote d’Ivoire head coach Natxo Lezcano.
“Look at this man,” Coach Lezcano said pointing to Konate. “He is a Lion. A true fighter and an absolute leader on and off the court.
“Take a dictionary and look at the word leader, then look at Konate, he is the incarnation of leadership.
“There are days I look at him and I say to myself, there’s no way this man is 40. You can’t be 40 and do the things that Konate does” the Spaniard playcaller insisted.
“It is an absolute joy having him on the team. He trains hard and motivates the younger players to also work hard. We are lucky to have him on the team.”
Konate has also been working on his conditioning as he hopes to stay agile and relevant for a few more years of action.
“I listen more to my body now. Obviously, at 40, your body doesn’t heal easily as when you’re 20.”
“Once I have a knock, I quickly go to the doctor and I have regular sessions with the physiotherapist to stay in good shape.”
“But everything is in the mind. If you start thinking I’m old then you start having some funny injuries. I don’t think about it at all because age is nothing but a number.”
“If you play well, very few people will ask about your age but when you start making mistakes, people will probably blame it on the age.”
“I try not to give them a chance to talk about it by doing the right things on the court.”
Konate will turn 41 on August 23, a day before the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 tip-off, a tournament that could be the conclusion of a glittering international career.
“The Rwanda event could be my last AfroBasket,” Konate said smiling.
“I think if I’m still on the team then it will be my last competition. We have a very good team and some good youngsters. They deserve a shot as well.
“With my club perhaps I could go on for a couple of seasons but I’ll like to assist the younger players more and share my experiences with them to help them grow,” Konate said.