Tunisia’s quest to retain AfroBasket crown hinges on new generation’s promise


In Tunisia, basketball enthusiasts are gathered with hopeful anticipation as the national team embark on their journey to defend their AfroBasket crown.

The stakes are high, the expectations lofty, but with a blend of seasoned veterans and promising young talents, Tunisia aim to reaffirm their status as champions of African basketball.

The backdrop to Tunisia’s campaign is marked by the graceful exit of their revered golden generation—players like Makram Ben Romdhane, Radhouane Slimane, Mokhtar Ghayza, and Ziyed Chennoufi—who had steered the national team to unprecedented heights.

Their collective experience and leadership has been instrumental in Tunisia clinching three of the last five AfroBasket titles.

However, with these stalwarts now in their mid-thirties and beyond, the torch of responsibility has been passed on to a new crop of players, symbolized prominently by the hyper-talented Oussama Marnaoui.

Marnaoui, a 24-year-old guard with a towering presence at 1.93 meters, had experienced limited playing time during Tunisia’s victorious 2021 AfroBasket campaign. However, his role has evolved since then, his responsibilities growing in tandem with his aspirations.

Oussama Marnaoui contributed 11 points per game during the first round of the 2025 AfroBasket Qualifiers Photo: FIBA

“As a young player, I feel a degree of responsibility because our golden generation inspired us and made us proud,” he shared earnestly. “I will try to keep our national team at the top even knowing that African basketball continues to get better and better every year.”

The first test for Tunisia’s new generation came during the preliminary rounds of the 2025 FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers. Held on home soil in Monastir, these games carried immense significance beyond mere wins and losses.

It was about setting the tone, building momentum, and establishing cohesion under the guidance of their new head coach, Mehdy Mary.

Reflecting on their triumphant start, Marnaoui emphasized the impact of their veteran players’ return for the qualifiers. “It was a good combination of factors,” he explained.

Makram Ben Romdhane is seen here in action against Angola in the first window of the 2025 AfroBasket Qualifiers Photo: FIBA

“We worked with Coach Mary for three months, and the return of some of our veterans made things a lot easier for us. These two factors helped us win all three games at home.”

The return of stalwarts like Ben Romdhane and Slimane proved pivotal. Ben Romdhane, the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket MVP, showcased his enduring prowess with an average of 10 points and 8 rebounds per game during the qualifiers.

Slimane, a consistent performer throughout his career, contributed an average of 11 points per game, reinforcing Tunisia’s depth and experience on the court.

Marnaoui acknowledged the influence of Ben Romdhane, stating, “He’s been our team leader and captain for the last 10 or 11 years. He brought in some positive energy. Hopefully, we’ll maintain the same level of competitiveness for the next round.”

Looking ahead to the future, Marnaoui remains steadfast in his commitment to Tunisia’s basketball legacy. “We won the last two AfroBasket tournaments, and, of course, next year’s AfroBasket remains our main goal. That’s what keeps us really motivated in the Qualifiers,” he affirmed.

However, the path to retention is fraught with challenges. African basketball has evolved significantly, with rising powers across the continent eager to dethrone Tunisia. The competition is fiercer than ever, demanding not only skill and strategy but also resilience and adaptability.

Oussama Marnaoui came up with 17 points as Tunisia beat Angola 82-73 Photo: FIBA

As Tunisia navigates through the qualifiers and prepares for the upcoming AfroBasket, the spotlight remains firmly on their ability to transition smoothly from one generation to the next.

Marnaoui epitomizes this transition—a young talent with a deep appreciation for the legacy of his predecessors and a burning desire to carve out his own chapter in Tunisian basketball history.

With experienced hands guiding them and youthful exuberance propelling them forward, Tunisia’s national team stands at a crossroads of continuity and renewal.

The journey to retain their AfroBasket crown will test their mettle, but with determination and unity, they aim to uphold their nation’s basketball pride on the continental stage once more.

Photo: FIBA

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