The Faurie Files: African Queen

23 March 2008

We've got three weeks until the EuroLeague Women Final Four in Brno so lets take some time to take a trip outside of Europe and learn about about some of the international players that have made this such a fun tournament to watch.

First stop is Africa.

Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, Brno's forward, will be one of the attractions of this Final Four, two weeks before she turns 30 years old. The little girl of Bamako, Mali's capital, was a WNBA champion, and thereby honored by America's President: "For an African, it represents a lot to have a reception in White House."

The daughter of an international basketball player, she started playing at age eight.

"I had 19 brothers and sisters. We made tournaments between us."

She's still in love with Africa. She always speaks slowly, except when she remembers growing up on the dusty red courts of her home.

"We were playing outside, most of the time on red ground, sometimes on bitumen. When it was raining, we couldn't train. It made me cry."

Hamchetou doesn't know if she was the best of the family.

"We called one of my young brother "coach", because he was really good. I've been lucky, that's all."

Between holes in the ground, bad balls and tall brothers, she learned to avoid tricks. To unfurl her long arms and move her long legs in the paint to reach the basket.

"I was playing in the team of Bamako Quarter 4. In the first two year, nobody wanted me because I was too small. Finally, one day, they asked me to play, because many girls where missing and I did well."

In Djoliba AC, the biggest club in the country, she made progress again and eventually reached Dakar University Club, in Senegal.

"My parents helped me a lot and my father accepted to let me go away if I had my A-Level." 

She's was immediately nominated "Queen of the Players", winning a prize of 50,000 African francs.

"It was around 100 euros. It was a lot for me."

With the Eagles, the national team, she plays in the African Games and the coach of Old Dominion University in the United States noticed her and asked her to move half a world away to play for the Monarchs In the USA.  The little African girl jumped at the chance and got a computing degree and was also drafted by Sacramento of the WNBA, where she won the crown in 2005.

Then she took her shot at Europe where she played in Spain, then in Nice, but her aim was to play in Euroleague Women. Her first steps in Mondeville, last season, were positive and she was elected MVP of the French League.

Then, this summer, Brno took a chance on this magnificent player and now Hamchetou is about to live out two of her dreams, a spot in the EuroLeague Final Four and a trip to the Olympics this summer with Mali.

2008 statistics: 15 games, 20:40 minutes per game. 9.9 points (56.9% 2 pt, 60% 3 pt, 45.5% FT). 4.1 rebounds.

Season highs: 15 points (against Gdynia and in game two of the quarter final against Valencia).

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