LOME (FIBA 3x3 Africa Cup 2018) - 3x3 star Cheick Traore reflects on what it took for Cote d'Ivoire to win gold at the 2nd edition of the FIBA 3x3 Africa Cup in Lome, Togo on November 7-9, 2018.
One year ago, the athletic 6ft 4in (1.93m) Traore led his country all the way to the final of the FIBA 3x3 Africa Cup but the last game - a 21-9 beating, courtesy of Nigeria - left a bad taste in his mouth:
"Last year we finished second," the 29-year-old said.
"This season we really wanted to win the title so we fought hard and worked like crazy all year long to get this trophy."
Traore believed a change of personnel was necessary to lift the trophy this year and called up 29-year-old Ibrahim Sevede, who was the team's top scorer in Togo.
"This year we tried to upgrade the team because we didn’t have enough power inside," Traore explained.
Cote d'Ivoire had a perfect 5-0 record but things got more difficult than a 'Black Mirror' plot along the way. Just like last year, the Greens flirted with a quarter-final exit. Last year, Mali pushed Cote d'Ivoire to a 14-13 thriller. This season, Traore won a 17-16 nail-biter against the Togo hosts.
"The level of competition here is really high," the tournament MVP said.
"We had to surpass ourselves to get the win. All the teams were of similar value and the finalists (Uganda) need some credit too."