The stage is set for an intense week for the Malta Basketball Association (MBA) as both the men and women’s national teams will be competing in the FIBA Small Countries Games.
However, while the men will be defending home soil, the women will have the task of showcasing their talent overseas in Cyprus.
The side, led by coach Angela Adamoli, will have the memory of last year’s fourth-place finish, as well as a selection of players raring to go, as motivation for this week’s games.
Speaking ahead of the games, coach Adamoli said she was happy with the pool of players available, finding it difficult when it came to reducing her squad from the provisional 19-girl roster.
“The girls have worked hard,” Adamoli said.
“When I arrived here, they were already in shape.
“They were ready to work on a lot of technical aspects. So, I was really happy because I had 19 players and everybody was ready to play this tournament. It has been really hard to choose the (confirmed) players because everybody was committed, and they were working really hard.
“We did some physical preparation and a lot of shooting and we worked to build a team – a mix between experience and a lot of young girls. Some are in their first experience with the senior national team and I’m really excited to see what will happen in this next tournament.”
Since last year’s rotation of the squad, many young additions have been made, with this year’s event set to present yet more new players, the youngest of which is Depiro centre Danika Galea at just 16 years of age.
The size and energy of Galea on the court will be a well-needed addition for Malta against Cyprus, Kosovo, Andorra, and Norway in a round-robin style tournament.
“We will meet some experienced teams so it will be a challenge to see how we behave in the tournament,” Adamoli said.
“My idea is to go game by game because it is a round robin, so every game is very important, and we can’t regret anything.
“We need to focus on every game and every day we have to think about our game. As usual, we’ll go to play in Cyprus with the aim to win the best medal so my goal is always the same and then only the court can tell us what result we can achieve.”
Together with the energy brought about by the young players, Adamoli will have at her disposal the experience of Maltese women’s league winner, with Luxol, Josephine Diaby, who despite suffering a slight injury during the build-up of the tournament, is now back on track.
“Obviously, we’re going to win a medal, hopefully it will be gold,” Diaby said.
“The training has been very good and we hope that all this work that we’ve been doing will reap dividends in Cyprus during the tournament.
“I suffered an injury and spent eight to 10 days out but I was present nonetheless and the girls looked happy as am I now, and I believe Angela (Adamoli) has done the best she can to prepare us in the best way.”
Malta open their commitments against Kosovo on Tuesday (tip-off: 17.30), but Diaby believes it will be hosts Cyprus and Norway who will be the greatest threat.
The former have already competed against Malta this summer a few weeks ago in the FIBA 3×3 Europe Cup qualifiers when they hosted and won qualification with dominant displays.
All but one player, involved in the 3×3 tournament will be present with Diaby’s matchup, centre Eleni Pilakouta, the one to watch for the Cypriots.
“Cyprus and Norway will be the tougher games,” she admitted,
“Norway have very good shooters, while Cyprus have a bit of everything and so I think they will be the most difficult games for us.”
June 28 Kosovo vs Malta 17.30
June 30 Malta vs Andorra 13.00
July 2 Cyprus vs Malta 17.30
July 3 Malta vs Norway 15.00