Malta’s basketball senior national teams have brought home medals both in the men’s and women’s game this summer as they reported for duty in the FIBA European Small Countries Games. Kurt Aquilina spoke with Malta women’s head coach Angela Adamoli after her team won bronze in Cyprus…
This summer’s FIBA Small Countries tournament in Nicosia had been a redemption mission from the start, after the Malta women’s team missed out on a medal with a loss to Kosovo in the third-place game in 2021. This year’s tournament followed a round-robin format with Malta facing Kosovo yet again in this year’s opener.
“I think this year we had a better preparation,” Adamoli admitted.
“Last year, we started training after COVID-19, so it was really hard. I think that last year we were lucky to even play the European Championship. The players were not so ready because they stopped a lot of times. Eight months without playing was hard to perform at a certain level.
“This year I found players better trained and in better shape. If Malta wants to compete at a high level, the players must be ready physically, technically, mentally, and full of energy.
“When I arrived in Malta (this year) the girls were not bad so I could go on with the preparation because the way they play in Malta and at international level is different. The level and speed, and lack of friendly games, makes it harder to play the first game and we knew that the opening game was really important.
“From last year, the mentality changed a lot. We knew that we were going to play for a medal, and Kosovo was the team against whom we lost last year for the bronze.”
Asked about the different format, Adamoli said the schedule made it easier for her team to prepare.
“We had a good schedule and so we were ready to play against Kosovo because we were not tired. We had time to prepare, and we studied the game from last year,” she said.
“We saw Andorra on the first day, so we knew how to play. Cyprus were stronger than us and even though we played a really tough game and we played well, we lost our energy. Against Norway, we started in a good way, but we had no more energy to finish. On the whole, I’m proud of the team and I think the team did well. I think we can work on this team.”
One of the positives out of this year’s tournament was the introduction of 16-year-old centre Danika Galea and guard Ylenia Bonett to the squad. Both players integrated into the roster and Adamoli believes it is the result of the “good mix of young and experienced players”.
“We built this team with the experienced players that were happy to teach the young ones and the young were eager to train and learn,” she explained, “So from the beginning, we had good vibes and when we were there, there were no groups and all the team stayed together. I think it is a very good basis for the future.”
Asked about Malta stalwart Samantha Brincat’s transition from player to assistant coach, Adamoli admitted it was a difficult decision for both, to change what had been the dynamic for the past nine years.
“I think (Brincat) did excellent work. It has been hard because Samantha has always been one of the main players of the team and after nine seasons, when I told her she was not in the team, for her it was not easy. However, as it was hard even for me, I asked her to be my assistant coach because she knows everything about my mentality and the way I work and my history with the team,” she explained.
‘3×3 – a great opportunity’
A self-confessed addict of the small-sided 3×3 basketball, Adamoli also took on the role of Malta coach for the women’s team when they tried their luck in qualifiers for the FIBA Europe Cup just a few weeks before the Small Countries Games.
“I am 3×3 addicted so when (the Malta Basketball Association) told me they wanted to participate in the qualifiers, I was really happy because I think that for Malta, 3×3 is a chance to compete with all the countries of the world,” she
“Until now, we compete for the European championship and GSSE (Games of the Small States of Europe) with small countries, but in 3×3, you can compete with all countries, so I think it is a really great opportunity.
“We discussed 3×3 this year and when we went to Cyprus, the four players began to experience the level first-hand. Everywhere in the world, five-on-five players are also in the countries’ 3×3. There are less than 10 teams of 3×3 professional players so for now we have to keep the players together.”
While the 3×3 game is smaller than the full-size game, Adamoli believes that their experience in Cyprus for the qualifiers helped identify opponents’ weaknesses.
“The dynamic is different but to make a personal scout of players, it’s easier because you see more about them. To play 3×3 against Kosovo and win helped us to play the first game of the European championship.”
Asked about what the next steps will be, Adamoli said she has already set her sights on next year’s GSSE 2023.
“I spoke to the MBA (Malta Basketball Association) and MOC (Maltese Olympic Committee) in June and we will meet in September to understand what we can do for the GSSE. It’s natural that we want to do our best, so we want to prepare everything in detail so, I’m sure the MBA and MOC will help me do everything possible,” she said.
“I had shivers when I saw the men’s games and saw all those people screaming and everybody with their red shirt. I’m looking forward to being there and I hope to give Malta’s people the joy of winning.”