SHEFFIELD (Júlio Chitunda's African Message) – As far as I can remember, no other player had ever scored as many points in a single national team game as Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt.
But Schmidt's 55 points - a FIBA record - against Spain at the 1988 Olympics has just been beaten.
Somalia international Faisal Aden has entered his name into an elite group of players as he poured 59 points (18 of which came from behind the arc) in a FIBA national team game.
On 25 January, Aden led Somalia in scoring, rebounds (10), steals (7) and assists (3) but they lost 86-83 to Rwanda in the preliminary round of the Africa zone 5, a qualifying competition for the 2013 Afrobasket, the continent flagship tournament.
The shooting guard spent 39 minutes and 22 seconds on floor.
On 24 September 1988 - when Aden was not even born - on Day 5 of the Seoul Olympics, Schmidt’s Brazil fell short, 118-110, against Spain. This came after they had recorded three wins (against Canada, China and Egypt) and a defeat (to the hands of the USA).
Oscar Schmidt spent 40 minutes on court.
Just like Aden, the FIBA Hall of Famer got 18 points from the three-point line, but Brazil missed out on the Olympic medal round as they finished fifth in the tournament, despite Schmidt’s 42.3 points per game in eight games.
Some may argue that these are incomparable competitions.
Indeed, the 1988 Olympics gathered the 12 best national teams in the world whereas the Africa zone 5 convened Egypt, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and hosts Tanzania.
Of course Aden is far from having Schmidt’s successful career, but the young Somali’s feat cannot be overlooked, especially as he seems to be competing against the clock, and his national team was simply trying to turn the odds around.
Somalia last played at Afrobasket in 1983, and this Africa zone 5 tournament was just to become the turning-point.
Last year, in his senior year in the US collegiate ranks with Washington State University, Aden put himself on scouts' list of players to watch out for. However, he went undrafted after missing the final 17 games of the season due to a knee injury. Later on he had a short spell with Belgium’s Stella Artois Leuven club.
Aden is expecting to sign with a Qatari team that he is currently practicing with.
Nevertheless his recent achievement for Somalia was the main topic of our chat.
"Who?" he replied to me when I asked him if he knew who Oscar Schmidt is.
"No, I have never heard of him," said the 24-year-old.
Then I asked him the meaning of representing a country he left with his family when he was just two years of age to settle in San Diego, California.
"It is always an honour to represent and help my country in any way I can," he answered.
"I showed that I am back and I am in shape to compete," he pointed out before explaining that he had "no special plans in mind" ahead of the tournament played in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
"I am happy that I had a good tournament and I am healthy. I did not have any high expectations. I just wanted to be part of the team and help my teammates.
"We had only one week of training camp. At first I did not think it was long enough, but our coaches did a good job as they put our team together and our chemistry worked out amazingly."
He did not think much when the national team phoned up.
"They are great people to be around," he said.
"Abdi Ahmed Faras is one of the few players on the team that I knew as we grew up together in San Diego. We just did not talk too much about basketball. Between us it was all about jokes as we know each other for a long time."
Whether Aden becomes a regular with Somalia, very few know, but he is "glad with the situation" that they are in now, although he feels "disappointed" that they have not booked a place to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, the site of this year’s Afrobasket.
"It is hard to say what the future holds for me with the national team," he offered.
Somalia’s only Africa success was a bronze medal as host of the 1981 Afrobasket.
With rumours on social media suggesting that Africa zone 5 runners-up Rwanda may receive a wild card offer from FIBA Africa to compete at this summer's Afrobasket, perhaps Somalia - a team that went to Dar es Salaam with low expectations and a modest record but that has raised eyebrows with a talented former college players squad - would deserve a chance too.
And Aden’s latest achievement may encourage him to work harder and become as great as great Schmidt. Who knows?
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