BEFORE THE Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was imposed and airports were closed, Basketball player Mohamed Pare of Saint Clare College of Caloocan managed to travel back home to Mali. The reigning National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Most Valuable Player accepted an invitation to be part of his country’s national team for the coming FIBA Afrobasket 2021 Qualifiers later this year but the COVID-19 crisis suddenly put a blanket of uncertainty.
The Federation Malienne de Basketball got word of Pare’s impressive stint in the last NAASCU and PBA D-League where the Saints copped the championship double. It took the 6’7” center nearly two days to travel from Manila to Hong Kong then Addis Ababa and finally to the capital city of Bamako.
Mali has been drawn in Group D together with Algeria, Rwanda and heavyweight Nigeria, the runner-up behind champion Tunisia in the last Afrobasket in 2017. The four teams will play two round robins in November and February to decide the three who will advance to the tournament proper to be hosted by Rwanda in August, 2021.
“This is a big opportunity for his career so I allowed Mohamed to go home and he promised to return for the next NAASCU season,” said Coach Jinino Manansala. However, the current circumstances may prompt the Saints to defend their crown with an all-Filipino roster but Coach Manansala and the team is ready for any eventuality.
Mali is one of the rising nations in world Basketball. At the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Greece, Mali surprised the field by placing second behind powerhouse United States, an indication of their vast potential.