Tunisia’s young talent ready to defend AfroBasket title


Tunisia’s disappointing 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers campaign raised significant questions about the reigning African champions’ ability to compete against the continent’s new heavyweights.

Losses to South Sudan, Egypt, Senegal, and DR Congo saw the three-time AfroBasket champions miss out on one of the five spots reserved for African teams for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, finishing with a 6-6 record.

With the core of Tunisia’s golden generation now in their mid-thirties and approaching retirement, attention has turned to a new group of talented Tunisian players, led by the 24-year-old Oussama Marnaoui. Can Tunisia’s new generation protect their AfroBasket crown?

Oussama Marnaoui contributed 11 points per game during the first round of the 2025 AfroBasket Qualifiers. PHOTO: Fiba

Marnaoui believes that it might take some time for Tunisians to realize how impactful their new generation of players can be.

Reflecting on their recent successes, Marnaoui emphasized the importance of blending experience with youthful energy.

“It was a good combination of factors,” he said. “We worked with the new head coach [Mehdy 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.”

Indeed, the return of veterans such as Makram Ben Romdhane (35), Radhouane Slimane (43), Mokhtar Ghayza (37), and Ziyed Chennoufi (35) during the first round of Group E of the 2025 FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers held in Monastir last February was crucial as Tunisia finished 3-0.

Ben Romdhane, the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket MVP, averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds, while Slimane contributed 11 points per game as Tunisia saw off Kenya (90-69), Guinea (85-78), and Angola (82-73).

The teams that finish in the top three places of each of the five groups will qualify to next year’s AfroBasket to be held in Angola. 

“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 [February 2025],” Marnaoui acknowledged about Ben Romdhane.

When Marnaoui reflects on how far his country has come to win three of the last five editions of the FIBA AfroBasket, he can’t help but pledge to do everything in his power to keep Tunisia among the best teams in Africa.

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

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

Marnaoui had limited playing time during the 2021 AfroBasket, but he now understands what it takes to be part of a championship-winning team.

And that’s what he hopes to share with Tunisia’s new generation. “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.”

“I will continue to work as hard as I can to help this new generation of Tunisians win one more AfroBasket,” the 1.93m (6ft 3in) guard pointed out.

The teams that finish in the top three places of each of the five groups will qualify for next year’s AfroBasket to be held in Angola.

Tunisia’s journey to retain their crown will undoubtedly be challenging, but with a blend of experienced veterans and promising young talents, they remain a formidable force in African basketball.

As the qualifiers continue and the countdown to the next AfroBasket intensifies, Tunisia’s new-look team, led by the ambitious and talented Marnaoui, will strive to uphold their nation’s proud basketball legacy and prove that they can compete with Africa’s best.

The road to glory may be tough, but with determination and teamwork, Tunisia’s new generation has the potential to achieve greatness once more.

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