Tunisia Men's Basketball Team 2012: Updated News, Roster & Analysis
It is the first Olympics for this Tunisian basketball squad, and they are a Cinderella pick.
Getting to the Olympics was an awesome achievement for the national team, and going much further then that is going to prove difficult.
But if there was ever a team that took on difficulty with an impressive confidence, it is this one.
No one expected them to even make it to London as Angola had won every African championship since 1997. It seems as if the schedule for Tunisia is impressive win, solid win, shocking win, repeat.
The question on everyone's mind right now is: How far can they go?
Let us find out.
Listed below are the players on Tunisia’s final 12-man roster, according to the FIBA website.
- Macram Ben Romdhane, PF
- Mehdi Hafsi, F
- Mourad El Mabrouk, SG
- Mohamed Ghyaza, C
- Mohamed Hadidane, PF
- Marouan Kechrid, PG
- Marouan Laghnej, PG
- Amine Maghrebi, SF
- Salah Mejri, C
- Amine Rzig, F
- Radhouane Slimane, F
- Atef Maoua, G
Projected Starter: Marouan Kechrid
Projected Reserve: Marouan Laghnej
Marouan Kechrid is a 5’10” point guard that plays for the Amel Sportif Esaouira Club. Kechrid was brilliant in the 2011 FIBA African Championship as he put up 11.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Most point guards are ball-handlers and the heart of the team. Kechrid is more than that. He is also the brain of the team.
He is version 2.0 of Coach Adel Tlatli, and this great unison is what makes the Tunisian squad one of the best in Africa. He is a game manager on both sides of the floor. Kechrid is a coach on the court as he is able to organize the defensive and offensive squads.
The chemistry between him and Tlatli is important, and for Tunisia to stand a chance in London, it will need Kechrid in full swing.
Projected Starter: Mourad El Mabrouk
Projected Reserve: Atef Maoua
Mourad El Mabrouk isn’t the most talented player on this national squad, but as a projected starter, he will be key.
The International Basketball Scouting Service gave him a two out of five stars, and it is true that El Mabrouk isn’t going to turn any heads in London. But what simple stars fail to mention is the chemistry between him and the other players.
Tunisia doesn’t have fancy sponsors or lofty expectations. All they have is each other. This is a team that can work with one another and perform better than expected.
El Mabrouk fits into the Tunisian system as shown by his 6.1 points per game in the 2011 FIBA African Championship.
He also added 1.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game in that tournament.
Projected Starters: Macram Ben Romdhane, Mohamed Hadidane
Projected Reserves: Amine Maghrebi, Amine Rzig, Radhouane Slimane, Mehdi Hafsi
Macram Ben Romdhane is the Tunisian Kevin Garnett. He has a vast amount of potential and can score with ease. The International Basketball Scouting Service gave him five-and-a-half stars out of five stars in the Scoring department.
He is also a great rebounder that can help on the defensive side. Romdhane is a stud and a complete basketball player that will provide some memorable plays in London.
In the 2011 FIBA Africa Championship, he provided a spark plug of 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Mohamed Hadidane is a 6’9” power forward that provides much needed height for the Tunisian squad. He is a big guy that does the dirty work. Having a player that is seen as a half-god by fans is an irreplaceable boon.
“Hamoudi” is one of the best players on Tunisia’s team, and his ball-handling skills are unsurpassed in the nation. Coming out of high school in 2005, many scouts predicted a great feature for Hadidane.
He pulled a LeBron James and skipped college. So far he has all but lived up to the hype. London is an important chance for him to show his talents to the world.
Projected Starter: Salah Mejri
Projected Reserves: Mohamed Ghyaza
Salah Mejri is a monster of a man standing at 7’1”.
It’s the first time that Tunisia has ever seen a seven-footer on their roster. Mejri isn’t the most skilled player on the roster, but he is working to improve on his problems. But what Mejri brings to the court is a real center.
Tunisia now has a solid big man to go up against the premier centers of the world. But the team is putting pressure on No. 15 to perform because of his giant frame. This means increasing his rebounds and blocks totals.
But it also means staying out of foul trouble. Like most big men, Mejri has found himself getting in the inviting waters of fouling because of his size. This is a great problem, but the seven-footer has been improving at a substantial rate and should be ready to perform well in London.
His nine rebounds per game in the 2011 FIBA Africa Championship is a testament to what Mejri can do and should be able to do in 2012.
Much like Coach K over in the USA, Tlatli is the longtime coach of this Tunisian squad. He has seen the ups and downs of this squad.
Tlatli knows the kinks and workings of the national team and is the only man for the job. His goal was to get Tunisia into the Olympics.
Well, here they are.
No Tunisian basketball team has ever played at an Olympics. That was until Adel Tlatli and company took history on and won.
That alone should be enough for Tunisia. But it isn’t. This is a coach that has high but realistic expectations for his team. He knows what this team can achieve but will push them to achieve more.
No one gave Tunisia a shot against uniform champions Angola last summer. But with a 67-56 victory, they gained the distinction of being the African representatives in London.
"This is the most beautiful day of my life—August 28, 2011. I will remember this date all my life,” said Salah Mejri after the game.
Adel Tlatli hopes to create many more beautiful days.
Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario for this Tunisian national squad is that they somehow make it past group play. Even that is wishful thinking.
This isn’t Africa. This is the best in the whole world. Winning a couple games in the group round would be excellent.
But the absolute best case scenario is making it to the playoff stage.
Can they do it? Yes. They shocked Angola, and there is enough fire left in Tunisia to shock the world once again. They are a super Cinderella, and just like a pumpkin turned into a carriage, Mohamed Hadidane can turn into a world-class phenomenon.
They already booked a ticket to the ball, and they have a fairy godmother in Adel Tlatli.
Tunisia is ready for a night they will never forget.
Worst Case Scenario
The magic runs out. The clock strikes 12 on this squad.
They don’t win a single game.
Angola was just a measly fluke. The big bullies of the world intimidate the new kid on the block. The inexperience of Tunisia catches up with them, and they trip over their own two feet.
Adel Tlatli can’t keep up with the masterminds of the game, and Salah Mejri finds himself in foul trouble early and often. Injuries plague Tunisia, and Marouan Kechrid dips in production.
That can happen. It is a bit far-fetched, but this team has such great chemistry. If one of them falls apart, the whole team sinks.
Win a game.
Why Will This Happen?
This is a very talented team. But they are also the 32nd best team in the world according to the FIBA rankings.
That isn’t Olympic quality. Tunisia punched their ticket to the Olympics with a shocking big win against Angola. Was it a fluke, or was it a sign for things to come?
We will find this out in London, but Tunisia got lucky. They have great heart and great chemistry. This will propel them to win a few games, but to think that Adel Tlatli and company can beat the best in the world is completely ludicrous.
Many will be rooting for this underdog squad in London, and winning a couple games is not disappointing. It is incredible.
Their pool is stacked with talented teams, though, and the best they can really hope for is a win over Nigeria.