While most college basketball players around the country were completing summer courses and offseason workouts on their respective campuses, Drexel’s Mohamed Bah was representing the Malian national team in the 2015 AfroBasket tournament.
The AfroBasket tournament, which was once known as “The African Championship of Nations”, takes place every two years and brings together some of the best African players from around the globe. The tournament serves as a qualifier for the Olympics. The winning team will get an automatic bid into the games.
The 28th edition of the AfroBasket tournament was held in Tunisia, which had previously hosted the event in 1965 and 1987. This year’s festivities kicked off on August 19th and will conclude on August 30th, when the final will be played.
Bah, who started in all 30 games last year for the Dragons and shot a team best 54% from the floor, tried out for a spot on Les Aigles (the nickname of the Malian National Team) during the offseason. Although he had to wait a month for the announcement, Bah earned a spot on his national team.
Mali, who was placed in Group C with Cameroon, Egypt and Gabon, started group play against Cameroon on the opening day. Although they lost 70-56, Bah played 8 minutes and grabbed 3 boards.
They would respond two days later with a win over Gabon 78-54 and Bah contributed 5 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 4 fouls. However, their win streak would not last for long. Mali lost their next game against Egypt 55-49. Bah played 15 minutes and added 3 points and 2 rebounds, but yet again had 4 fouls.
Mali went on to advance to the Round of 16, where they would beat Cote d’Ivoire 76-57. Bah played for 6 minutes and recorded 2 rebounds.
In the quarterfinals, the big man played for 13 minutes, while totaling 6 points and 3 rebounds, but, unfortunately, it was not enough to push Mali into the semifinals. They were eliminated by Tunisia 67-60.
Even though Bah did not play a tremendous role for Les Aigles or win the 2015 AfroBasket tournament, the experience that he gained from playing for his national team and against some of the best African basketball players in the world is invaluable.
However, Bah is not the only person who will benefit from his opportunity to play international basketball. Hopefully, his Drexel teammates can hear about what the experience was like and learn some things.
In addition, the Malian national team and Drexel basketball now have a young and blooming big man, who has gotten the chance to play in a major tournament against grown men before even becoming a pro. What a treat.
Photo courtesy of FIBA.com
Last season, Drexel finished with a 11-19 overall record. This gave them the fifth worst record in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
However, even before the 2014-15 season began the Dragons were down two players due to injury and this may have decided their fate before the season opened up. The Dragons have had a history of injuries spanning over the past three seasons and this may be the reason for their constant disappointing finishes.
During the 2012-13 season, guard Chris Fouch was off to a hot start averaging 16.7 ppg and shooting 48% from deep in three games. However, it didn't last. His season was cut short after suffering a broken ankle. The Dragons would finish that year 13-18 overall. Fouch would return for the following season and average 18.3 ppg and 2 assists, leading Drexel to a 16-14 record in his final year.
The next season, guard Damion Lee, who was coming off of a fantastic season, tore his ACL against Arizona in the 2013 NIT Season Tip-Off. Lee missed the rest of the 2013-14 season due to the injury.
And then, before the 2014-15 season even started, projected starting guard Major Canady broke his ankle during a practice in late October. He would need season-ending surgery.
Wait, but there is more. Recent Drexel graduate Kazembe Abif also tore his ACL before the preseason even began last year. Abif has a history of injuries. He missed the final eight games of the 2013-14 season due to a hand injury and then the final six of the 2011-12 season with an illness. He has only played in 63 out of the possible 127 games over the past four seasons. Wow.
Although Abif has graduated, he has enrolled in graduate school at Drexel and will be back for the 2015-16 campaign. He will join Canady, who was able to redshirt his sophomore season because his injury occurred before the season started.
When Abif is healthy, he is one of Drexel’s best big men. The six-foot-seven forward averaged 7.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg during his junior season before he suffered the aforementioned hand injury. If Abif can stay healthy this year, he will be a force to be reckoned with and provide key veteran leadership for the team.
Canady entered the 2014-15 preseason coming off of a productive freshman season. He had played in all 30 games, starting in 14 of them, while averaging 2.7 ppg and 2.1 rpg. Since he was unable to play last season due to his injury, look for Canady to play with a flare, have a significant role in the backcourt, and to be a role model for the younger guards on the team.
Lee, on the other hand, will not be returning to Drexel for his last year of eligibility. He has decided to transfer to Louisville for his final collegiate season.
Canady will instead share the backcourt with Tavon Allen.
Allen played in all but one game last season, starting in 27 of them. He was second in scoring with 11.2 ppg and finished the season shooting 80% from the foul line, which was 9th best in the CAA. Allen, who can obviously score the ball, will complement Canady’s game as more of a distributor.
Furthermore, in light of the injuries, four players were able to get a chance to show what they could do.
Rising sophomore Rashann London, who started every game for the Dragons last year due to injuries, now has a year of experience under his belt and will look to build off a strong freshman season. He averaged 30.3 minutes per game along with 7 points per outing.
There is also Sammy Mojica, who progressed throughout his freshman season and averaged 6.3 ppg. Mojica, however, did miss the final three games of the season due to injury.
He was named as the team’s Most Improved Player by Drexel’s coaching staff. Mojica will continue to develop and get more playing time if he can stay healthy.
Not only did coach Flint find depth in the backcourt but as a result of Abif’s injury, sophomore forward Rodney Williams also stepped his game up. He averaged a strong 8.2 ppg and 7 rpg in Abif’s absence. But once again, Williams missed Drexel’s first eight conference games due to injury.
He will look to team up with Abif in the frontcourt and play more of a leadership role as he will be entering his junior season on a team that has six underclassmen.
Another forward that will vie for a starting spot in the frontcourt is rising junior Mohamed Bah. The big man started in all 30 games and shot a team best 54% from the floor. He has been Flint’s only consistently healthy big man. Bah averaged 3.9 ppg and 4.6 rpg. The man from Mali hopefully can progress this season with the help of Abif and Williams.
Drexel has shown in the past that when they are at full strength and healthy, they can be an above .500 team. The only problem with that is they haven’t been healthy over the past three seasons. If Drexel can find a way to keep their players healthy then they will have a chance to compete for the CAA title. If not, Drexel will continue to have a sub .500 record and be eliminated in the first round of the CAA tournament. For the sake of all Drexel faithful, let’s just hope the 2015-16 roster can play injury free.
Photo courtesy of Drexel.edu
-Drexel loses to Charleston in the quarterfinal of the CAA tournament