New South Africa head coach calls up 20 players for FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Qualifiers
Newly-appointed South Africa men's national team head coach Craig Gilchrist has announced a 20-player preliminary squad for next month's FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Zone 6 Qualifiers in Zambia.
Samkelo Cele, Nhalanha Dlamini, Stephen Gabriel, Celumusa Khumalo, Kyle MaClean, Fumani Marhanele, Marcus Mokoena, Lesego Molebatsi, Neo Mothiba, Somusa Mthembu, Tsakani Ngobeni, Kagiso Ngoetjana, Bandile Nsele, Reece Prinsloo, Lebesa Selepe, Sakhile Sithole, Thabo Sithole, Vusi Sithole, Lehlogonolo Tholo, Jonathan Van der Bijl
The former South African international took over two weeks ago looking to help his country qualify for the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Final Round in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo in August (19-30).
Talking to FIBA.com, Gilchrist who featured at FIBA AfroBasket 2005, explained the importance of next month's qualifier.
"Obviously Basketball South Africa [BSA] are expecting us to qualify for AfroBasket but also to start bringing through some younger players to prepare for the future."
South Africa will do battle in Zone 6 Group G against Angola, Madagascar and the host nation in Lusaka from March 12-18. The team that comes out on top will earn a place in the Brazzaville show-piece.
The qualifiers will be played in a round-robin format with each team taking on its three opponents.
The team that finishes second in Group G will have a second chance of advancing to Brazzaville by taking on the second-placed team of Group H, which consists of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Seychelles.
"Obviously Angola are going to be a tough ask as they have led the way in Africa over the past 15 years and always come highly prepared," Gilchrist noted.
"Zambia is always a tough game, we narrowly beat them in the 2011 qualifiers and with them being at home it just makes our job a little harder.
"Madagascar coming from Zone 7 is really an unknown entity for us. We have played them once before in AfroBasket 2011 where we lost to them. All in all it is going to be a difficult road to qualification but we will give it our best shot.
"Our players are always motivated, they get so little opportunity to play on a international stage so any tournament is an exciting challenge for them." Gilchrist is also in charge of Kwazulu Marlins Basketball side in the country National League.
Asked about the significance of coaching his country, Gilchrist replied: "Having represented SA as a player and assistant coach previously it has always been a dream of mine to coach SA. So it is very important to me."