BWB Africa

MAR - Idrissi Basketball Without Borders Alumni

ATLANTA (National Team) - Younes Idrissi has a better viewpoint than most when it comes to evaluating the potential of African players in the world of basketball.

The 6ft 8in forward from Casablanca will be a member of Morocco's national team squad at the forthcoming FIBA African Championships, qualifier for the FIBA World Championship 2006, in neighbouring Algeria - a tournament he believes will showcase the talents of a young developing team.

Georgia Bulldog Idrissi is one of seven Moroccans currently playing for NCAA Division I schools in the United States and he feels that these youngsters hold the key to success for his nation in years to come.

The freshman knows that his team does not boast many giants.

However new Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo is not the only one to think that too much emphasis can be placed on physical prowess rather than fundamental skills, and Idrissi believes his team-mates are well equipped in the skills department, making up for any shortcomings in their stature.

"We haven't got many big guys but we've got some very good guards," he said.

"We try to score fast and outpoint teams by getting quick baskets because we don't have the big guys that can dominate the post."

However, while the 21-year-old refuses to predict any spectacular victories for his country in Algeria, he is hopeful that a quick, youthful side can build a platform for future glories.

"The team is young with new players coming through," he added.

"I think this championship can be more of a learning experience and that we can look towards the next championships in 2007."

Idrissi got the chance to continue his education in the States after taking part in the first FIBA/NBA Basketball Without Borders Africa - a chance for the top 100 young players on the continent to impress American coaches while learning and developing skills.

The forward, who describes himself as "kind of a combo between a shooting guard and a power forward" in his style of play, transferred to an American high school and immediately noticed the difference between playing in Morocco and in the US.

"It's so different here than to Morocco and it's hard to play against American players," he said.

"In Africa they might just have the power, in Europe they have the shooting skills but here they shoot, they run, they jump - they do everything.

"It's a big chance for me and I will learn from it. I moved away to get here and everything changed.

"In training the style, the rhythm, the learning and the practice are very different and we do stuff like weightlifting.

"The games are hard, they are physically harder, but the level is good and it is more fun."

Idrissi, the son of a veterinary surgeon and a teacher, is currently studying international business at college, but recently got a chance to return to Africa as part of the Basketball Without Borders programme.

Idrissi certainly caught the eye at the programme, where he showed he has the potential to develop into a fine player, and it is an experience he is clearly grateful for.

It not only gave him new ideas that he can take onto the court, but it offered him a chance to work with one of his idols.

"I learnt a few things - like basic leadership skills and how to be a good team-mate," he said.

"I learned to take care of myself and therefore during games I think I have improved.

"Everyday we worked on skills and I'd say I developed there as much as I did in a year.

"Learning from (Houston Rockets centre) Dikembe Mutombo was amazing, he is my idol in basketball, the best African player."

Does Idrissi dream of emulating Congo-born Mutombo, who has also worn the colours of Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey and the New York Knicks since tipping off his NBA career in 1991?

Of course he does. But the calm and level-headed youngster insists that success can only be attained gradually, and through a lot of hard work.

"My dream is to take things step by step and my next step is to gain 10 more pounds and get a starting position here in the team at Georgia," he said.

"I want to get that first before I think about the next step."

By Adam Renton, PA International, exclusively for FIBA