|14 July 2009|
If Belgium are going to create a major shock and reach the EuroBasket in Poland, one would think recently-crowned NBA champion Didier Mbenga will have to dominate the low post in their forthcoming Additional Qualifying Round games.
The Belgians will take on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Portugal in Group A and if they finish first, Mbenga and Co will go up against the winner of Group B (France, Italy or Finland) in a home-and-away tie with the prize a spot at the EuroBasket.
The 2.14m center did not play last summer in Belgium's Division A games but they went 2-4 without him in a group that included Turkey, France and Ukraine and that was good enough to join five other teams in the AQR.
Mbenga is quite a story.
After growing up in Congo, he fled to Belgium as a teenager following the mysterious death of his father, who had worked in the government.
Belgium granted Mbenga political asylum.
While in his new country, he discovered basketball.
He recently spoke about his love affair with the game.
"It was a way for me to get away from everything, everything I was thinking in my mind," he said.
"All I did was practice, practice, practice, try not to think about what happened.
"The more time I spent playing basketball, the more I loved it."
Considering that Mbenga competed against the likes of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum each day in practice this season, he should have a lot to offer Belgium in their attempt to reach Poland.
He joined the national side in Dallas, Texas, on Monday for their training camp which runs until July 20.
Belgium's first game in the AQR is on August 8 at Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica.