Bobcat to join Algerian squad

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Shortly after he learned how to play basketball, Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak dreamed of representing his home country on the hardwood in an international competition.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/04/2013 (3422 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Shortly after he learned how to play basketball, Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak dreamed of representing his home country on the hardwood in an international competition.

While a lot of his Brandon University Bobcat teammates will be working this summer to save up money, Benabdelhak will be living his dream in Africa.

The 25-year-old forward will return to Algeria this summer to train and play with the country’s senior men’s basketball team, which will compete in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) African Championship in the Ivory Coast in August.

Colin Corneau / Brandon Sun Brandon University Bobcats' Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak.

This will be Benabdelhak’s third summer with the Algerian team and his dedication to play for them has never wavered, even though he has lived most of his life in Canada.

“I was born there and I have family there,” he said. “Just to represent the flag and country, it’s a big, big feeling for me. It was a dream for me when I started playing basketball. I always said my dream was to represent the country.”

Benabdelhak was born in Bejaia City, but his family left Algeria when he was nine years old. The country was in the middle of a 10-year civil war and massacres were starting to become more common in 1997, so his family decided to move to Montreal in hopes of a better lifestyle and future.

It was in the Quebec city where Benabdelhak developed into the 6-foot-6, 190-pound forward who averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Bobcats this Canada West season.

Benabdelhak just finished his second season with the Bobcats, although it didn’t go the way he wanted. Brandon struggled to a 6-16 record and a last-place finish in Canada West’s Prairie Division. Benabdelhak also missed Brandon’s final nine games with a fractured clavicle, although he was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder before he was injured.

Benabdelhak was cleared by doctors to play basketball again on March 12, and he has been busy rehabilitating and trying to put muscle on his shoulder since then.

Although he’s not sure what role he’ll play on the Algerian team — that will be determined through team practices as well as tournaments in Indonesia and Turkey — Benabdelhak hopes to learn a lot this summer.

“It was my childhood dream to play with the national team,” he said. “Now it’s a dream come true to play in the African Cup. I’m very happy and excited. Hopefully I can bring this experience to the Bobcats next year and help my team this summer and also the Brandon Bobcats.”

The 16-team African championship, which runs from Aug. 21-30, will be very tough. Professional players from the United States and Europe will be playing for their countries and battling for one of Africa’s three spots in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Algeria also comes in as an underdog, ranked 71st in the world and 15th in Africa. It hasn’t appeared at the biennial event since 2005.

Benabdelhak would like to help medal for the first time since 2001. However, he really wants to grow as a player and person.

“It’s to have experience for my basketball career,” he said. “If I can bring that to Brandon and help my team next season. Maybe I can play professional after (university) and that can help me. Maybe in the future for my children I can be a role model to them by saying I played for the national team.”

» cjaster@brandonsun.com

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