Temps de lecture : 3 mn 🕗
BAMAKO (Mali) – Nothing keeps the blood flowing for a team in basketball like rebounding. That’s because the rebound is synonymous with possession.
In other words, rebound = possession.
The steal is the same.
Steal = possession.
No one in African basketball is mastering the two equations better than Sika Kone of Mali.
The 1.93m power forward/center is a bundle of energy, intensity, relentlessness and power, all wrapped up into one, and she’s still a teenager!
Having thrived at Spar Gran Canaria in Spain’s top flight, the 19-year-old has evolved into one of the best, most impactful players in the game. That’s something everyone will realize at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney.
Here’s a deeper look at Kone and how she’s become one of the best players in international basketball.
- ‘The Evolution of’ is a new format where FIBA will break down the journey of active players through their debuts at an early stage in of their careers up until now. Let’s check how they performed in Youth Events and let’s see how their skillsets and bodies have grown over the years. A fascinating drive down Memory Lane, leading up to great expectations for the future.
Young, full of energy and one of the best in Africa
Kone was just 15 when she arrived at the 2017 FIBA U16 Women’s African Championship and went on to run roughshod over the competition.
Kone poured in the points (13.7 ppg), pulled down the boards (8.7 rpg) and came up with steals (3.3 spg) as Mali blew out all every foe by an average of 41 points per game.
Double-double delight in Debrecen
At the FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup in Hungary last year, Kone raised eyebrows in her very first game with 24 points and 19 rebounds in a victory over Japan. She went on to have double-doubles in every game.
Kone (above) took no prisoners as she scored on fast breaks, post-ups, pick-and-rolls and with put-backs. Even when defenses got physical with her like in the game against Russia, she absorbed contact and finished strong.
Kone usually wreaked havoc in the paint and around the basket yet she also had a knack for hitting mid-range jumpers and shots from just inside the arc. So any team that believed the key was keeping Kone away from the basket still faced a scoring threat from the perimeter.
Great teams win with defense and no one can dispute that Kone helped Mali on that end of the floor in Hungary, where she anticipated well and picked off passes and also blocked shots.
A player like Kone becomes even more dangerous on offense when she goes from scorer to provider. In Debrecen, Kone spotted open teammates on the perimeter and passed them the ball and also beat double-teams with nifty hand-offs in the paint.
Smooth transition to senior team
Anyone that wondered if Kone could be as dominant for Mali at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2021 had their answer in the very first game against Tunisia when she had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
It was more of the same from a scoring standpoint for Kone. Opponent after opponent struggled to keep Kone off the low blocks, where she caught passes, turned and scored almost at will. Kone was not a one-trick pony, scoring with put-backs after missed shots, hustling ahead on fast-breaks and scoring in transition and also stepping outside and making jumpers.
Relentless is also a good way to describe Kone’s approach on defense. She was quick to loose balls that were deflected by teammates, intercepted passes, moved her feet well on defense to force turnovers and blocked shots.
Being a complete player on offense includes having the smarts to know when to give up the basketball to get a better shot. Kone did this when defenses collapsed by spotting open teammates on the perimeter, and she made wraparound passes on drives to the basket. At the high post, she beat double-teams by finding other Mali players making back-door cuts and simply making themselves available.
“Beasting” and feasting at World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade
At the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade earlier this year, Kone not only averaged 16.7 points per game but also 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals. Each of those numbers ranked second overall at the event!
Kone proved she could excel at the AfroBasket in 2021 with the senior team and did so in February at the FIBA Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament with a 26-point, nine-rebound and five-steal effort against France, Mali’s first opponent.
As persistent and unrelenting as Kone was on offense, she was equally impactful on defense in Belgrade.
Always quick to balls that had been deflected and cleverly using her strength and length to deny opponents the ball, Kone was active on defense.
Kone has clearly received good coaching because she continued to be unselfish on offense, looking to move the basketball when shots were not there to be attempted and collecting assists as a result. She had two against both China and Nigeria.