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Yanick Moreira (ANG)
ANG - Big man Moreira looking forward to challenges

DALLAS (Afrobasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - A year ago, Angola's Yanick Moreira made history at South Plains College as they registered an unbeaten 36-0 record and claimed the 2012 National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) national title.

Moreira was named the tournament's MVP.

In coming months, the 2.11m big man will face two new challenges.

First, the 21-year-old has joined Southern Methodist University (SMU) and will be coached by legendary Larry Brown.

Then, back in his native Angola, basketball authorities are eager to see him play for the senior team at this summer's AfroBasket.

In 2012, Moreira was named in the preliminary squad that played at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Caracas, Venezuela, but he pulled out for academic reasons.

Last week, the Angola Basketball Federation (FAB) and newly-appointed head coach Paulo Macedo named him in the 21-man preliminary squad, but Moreira remains uncertain when to join the team, although he says FAB is in regular contact with SMU to negotiate his presence with the national team.

With so much attention from some media outlets who labelled him as one of the best junior players in US college, and FAB insisting on having him play for his country in Abidjan, Ivory Coast - where the top three teams will qualify for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - caught up with Moreira to find out why coaches Brown and Macedo are so keen on him.

"I want to be a better player. I keep working hard every day to improve my jumpshot, low post moves, and get ready for the challenges ahead," he said.

"I am looking forward to help SMU play in the national championship (NCAA) as well as help Angola qualify for the World Cup.”

For years Angola has appeared in international tournaments with small line-ups and this at times has proved costly.

But recently, the inclusion of 2.08m Valdelicio Joaquim has added big presence in the paint.

That is the reason Moreira is received with open arms in Angola basketball scene, although he argues that he is more than just a big player.

"Unlike some big men, I am comfortable with both my dribbling and perimeter shot which allow me take advantage from my opponents," he explained.

"I can't say I am the strongest guy, but I am intelligent and I know how use by body."

Angola's men's national team has been drawn in Group Cof the 2013 Afrobasket alongside Central African Republic, Cape Verde and Mozambique.

This is a tough group for Angola, Moreira says.

"We must play thinking that each game is a final for us, especially because the other teams will surely be playing hard," he warned.

Angola are due to begin their AfroBasket preparations on home soil on 16 June in Bié Province, where they will practice for a week before moving to Benguela province. Later in June they will carry on their training camp in Spain.