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2008 Olympic Basketball Preview: Angola

This is the eighth in a series of team previews for the 2008 Olympics done by the SBNation sites Green Bandwagon and At the Hive. Already profiled: Greece, China, Russia, Argentina, Australia, Iran, and Lithuania.You can refer to the right-hand sidebar either here or at Green Bandwagon for quick access to the profiles.

Population: 12,263,596

Size in Comparison to a US State: 9 times the size of New York

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Interesting Fact: Dreads, or dreadlocks, originated in Angola. On a related note, I'm really looking forward to seeing what Manny Ramirez looks like without dreads.

Recommended Reading:
Angola: The Hero. Switching gears a little bit to a movie instead of a book. The Hero focuses on a war veteran in post-war Angola.

World Rank (Courtesy of FIBA): 14

Qualified: African Champion

Dream Match Up in Beijing: For once, I am stumped.

Dream Match Up That Did Not Qualify: Portugal- That whole colonial thing doesn't sit too well with some people.

Recent News: Angola finished last in the recent Diamond Ball tournament in Asia, featuring Argentina, Australia, and China.

Angolan Roster

Olimpio Cipriano - Cipriano is a guy who has gradually worked his way up the Angolan ranks. He joined the national team at age 22 and averaged a mere 3 points per game at the Athens Olympics. Fast forward to the recently concluded Diamond Ball Tournament (China) where he averaged 24 a game. You can check out this interview with him after a Diamond Ball contest. Cipriano was last year's Angolan National League (ANL)'s MVP and possesses legit NBA-range three point ability. The 6'4" swingman also had a stint with the Detroit Pistons in last year's summer league before being cut. Look for him to shoulder a good portion of the scoring load; Cipriano is sure to be the go-to scorer in clutch situations.

Eduardo Mingas - The 6'7", 240 pound Mingas is a likely starter in Angola's frontcourt. He's played internationally since 2002 and plays for the Inter Luanda club in Africa. At first glance, Mingas appears too undersized to play the power forward position, but he's gained a reputation as one of the most physical players in the world. Case in point: at the 2006 World Championships, he had a top 10 finish in the rebounding department. While he won't be relied on too heavily for points, Mingas has shown nice offensive ability in past tournaments.

Armando Costa - A native of Luanda, Angola, Costa was raised in Portugal. In 2005 though, instead of electing to join the Portuguese National Team, Costa opted to return home to join Angola's. With 5 consecutive African Championships, Angola offered Costa the opportunity to participate in Basketball World Championships and the Olympics. Costa will have primary ball handling duties. However, he struggled to adapt to physical point guard play in 2005 and 2006 and some speculate that he won't have the job all to himself.

Leonel Paulo - Not much is known about this 22 year old, 6'7" forward. He didn't get too much playing time in the recent Diamond Ball Tourney, logging just 19 minutes over 3 games. He put in averages of 1 point and 1.5 rebounds per game. Leonel is said to be one of Angola's top prospects, but it is questionable how much time he'll get in Beijing. Interestingly, the user name "Leonel Paulo" has been banned from editing Wikipedia.

Carlos Morais - If Olimpio Cipriano is scoring option 1A, then Carlos Morais is 1B. Morais attended High School in the U.S.- Community Christian School of Stockbridge, Georgia- before heading back overseas to Angola. Morais is young (22) but poised to become the Angolan team's next big star. His minutes and workload have gradually increased over the last couple years, and at the 2007 African Championships, he averaged 9.8 points per game and hit 63% of his triples. His three point touch is probably his biggest weapon.

Carlos Almeida - FIBA's profile says it all:

For years, Carlos Almeida has served as the backup for the team's main star, Miguel Lutonda. At 32, his role has diminished although his experience is still valuable to the team. He is a five-time African Champion and has made two appearances at Olympics and also played at two FIBA World Championships. He is described, year after year, as a perfect team player. Almeida isn’t known for having a particular strength, but is rather a good all-round player who is ready to produce coming off the bench. At the 2006 FIBA World Championship, he averaged 10.8 points but after seeing his minutes cut to just 16 per game last year at the FIBA Africa Championship, he poured in 6.3 points per contest.

Sounds like the "glue" guy so many NBA teams are searching for these days.

Milton Barros - The 6'1", 190 pound Barros figures to be one of Armando Costa's primary backups at the point. Most impressively, he averaged 12 points and 4 assists at the FIBA Africa Cup in 2006 and most recently, he averaged 8 points and 0 assists at the Diamond Ball Tourney. Barros' best attributes are his quickness and explosiveness off the dribble; his on the ball defense on opposing point guards is also notable.

Abdel Aziz Boukar - Aziz Boukar has lived in three different countries during his life. Born in Ndjamena, Chad, Boukar moved to the Republic of Central Africa with hopes of playing professional basketball. He later moved to African basketball powerhouse Angola. Like 6'7" power forward Eduardo Mingas, Boukar- just 6'8"- plays a very undersized center. Known for being among the most physical players in the game, Boukar has had to battle numerous knee problems throughout his professional career. He sat out the Diamond Ball Tourney and his status for Beijing remains largely unknown.

Luis Costa - At 30 years old, Costa is one of the few veterans on this team. With the emergence of the young Armando Costa at point guard (as far as I can tell, the two are not related), many figured that Luis was over the hill in 2006. He received very little playing time at the FIBA World Championships that year. But with Armando's struggles with the physical nature of the international game, Luis could find himself with a big role this year. The only other PG on the roster- Milton Barros- is very young, so Luis Costa will have to help lead the way if Barros and A. Costa falter. He is big for a point guard (6'4", 210), and sat out the Diamond Ball Tourney.

Felizardo Ambrosio - The 20 year old forward is perhaps Angola's brightest prospect for the future. 6'7" and 220, Ambrosio already has one year of international experience under his belt. As his FIBA profile says, "He did show a lot of good things during last year's FIBA Africa Championship, averaging nearly six points and 3.8 rebounds in 14 minutes per game." Odds are he won't contribute much this time around, but don't be surprised to hear his name in the future.

Vladimir Geronimo - Geronimo is a a 6'4" veteran swingman (30 in April). Born in Luanda like many of his teammates, he's contributed internationally and in FIBA play since 2006. Not much else is known about him, and Geronimo figures to be on the end of the Angolan bench to provide depth and leadership.

Joaquim Gomes - Perhaps the most accomplished and successful player on the Angolan team. Gomes, born in Luanda, attended Valparaiso University in Indiana for four years, culminating in a 13 ppg, 9 rpg showing his senior year. He's played professionally in Germany and The Netherlands in addition to Angola. The 6'7", 230 pound PF-C was initially known for his strong rebounding ability. Over the years, he's added a relatively fluent offensive game to supplement his boarding skills. This will be the 27 year old Joaquim's 8th year with the National team. At the FIBA Diamond Ball Tourney, Gomes averaged a very solid 21 ppg and 8 rpg against the strong front lines of China, Argentina and Australia.

Overall - "You can't teach height", goes the old cliche. Unfortunately, that's Angola's biggest problem. With 6'8" players masquerading as centers and 6'7" players manning power forward, Angola will be in for a struggle against the likes of Spain and China. Outside shooting and overall team depth are two other categories the African champions will need to work on before making more headway internationally. The point guard play- a mix of two youngsters and a veteran- looks promising to say the least. And the Gomes-Cipriano scoring duo, complemented by the shooting of Morais, could definitely be good enough to put a scare into other contenders.