FIBA 2023 World Cup: Analysing The Cote D’Ivoire Roster

With the 19th edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup beginning on August 25th, there follows a look at the rosters for each of the 32 teams taking part. This instalment looks at the team from Cote D’Ivoire, who have qualified for their fifth World Cup, albeit in not quite as dramatic of a fashion as they did in 2019.

Souleyman Diabate

  • PG – 6’0 – Born 21st July 1987
  • Petro de Luanda, Angola

Be it as Souleyman Diabate, Solo Diabate or Mouloukou Diabate, Diabate is a vital veteran presence for this Cote D’Ivoire team, whatever name he is called by. He has played all over the globe – Macedonia, Slovakia, China, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Angola and the best part of two decades in France, even sniffing the NBA at one point when he joined the New York Knicks for summer league in 2016. Diabate is undersized, but whereas he rarely has the size advantage even at the one spot, he usually has the athletic one. With good reach and the ability to get quickly off the floor, he plays accordingly, getting out in transition wherever he can and attacking the rim in slithers of space. Even with this attacking nature, he still keeps turnovers fairly low, and attacks opponents on defence, winning deflections he can then run back the other way. Every night now for over a decade, he has gone out on the court, been a presence, and come back with a hard-earned 10 points and 6 assists. This tournament is no different.

Maxence Dadiet

  • PG/SG – 6’4 – Born 2nd March 1999
  • Toulouse, France

You will quickly see that many of the players on this Cote D’Ivoire roster are either in the French league, or initially came through it, for obvious reasons. Max Dad is no exception. He has played three consecutive seasons in the third-tier NM1 after two at the ProB level with Denain, and it seems as though he has found his level there, as evidenced by the 13.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game he averaged for Toulouse last season. Similar in playing style to the aforementioned Solo Diabate, there is one distinct difference between Dadiet and he; Diabate is better in all areas. Although Dadiet is bigger and similarly athletic, he is a lesser shooter – and Diabate is a below-average one already – while also less of a prober and passer in the pick-and-roll. Nevertheless, as a good-sized point with some speed about him, which he uses to be bothersome on defence and on attacks of the rack. And he still has plenty of time to get closer to Diabate’s level.

Assemian Moulare

  • PG/SG – 6’0 – Born 21st January 2003
  • Vichy Clermont, France

The third ball-handler on this team is even younger than Dadiet, yet already playing at a higher level. For Vichy in the ProB last season, Moulare averaged 4.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game, and although it is an anomalous result compared to the hitherto-poor outside shooting in his career, it is of note that those numbers included a season average of 40.0% from three-point range. If Moulare keeps that up, he can pair it with his athleticism, fearlessness, sharp handle and great speed with the ball in his hands to potentially go a long way in the French league and become a regular ProA contributor on both ends of the court. The tools here are very promising.

Bazoumana Kone

  • PG/SG – 6’5 – Born 13th December 1993
  • Karlsruhe, Germany

Kone has a modicum of G-League experience, joining the Oklahoma City Blue for a short while in 2019/20 at a time when Germany’s Dennis Schroeder was a member of the Thunder. At that time, Kone had been playing for Braunschweig, the German team that Schroeder was (and still is) the majority owner of. Seems like it was a big factor there. Nevertheless, although Kone’s time in America was brief, he soon returned to Europe, where last year he found himself in the second tier of German basketball, the Pro A. There, Kone was a starter and a star, just as he is here for his national team, and he responded with averages of 15.2 points, 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

Athleticism, defence and outside shooting inefficiency have always been hallmarks of Kone’s game, and they still are, although he has continued to slowly improve at the last of these, to the point that his shooting is not a liability. Much better on the ball than off it, Kone has gravity and a constant aggression on the ball, usually having the size and quickness advantage and playing accordingly. He is into his prime years now, and he is a good player at a good level. Just not at Schroeder’s level.

Nisre Zouzoua

  • SG – 6’2 – Born 16th July 1996
  • Free agent

Born and raised in American, Zouzoua qualified for the Cote D’Ivoire team through his Ivorian father, while using his Americanness to put in a four-year Division I college career. Despite being lightly recruited initially, he played his way through two years at Bryant into two years at Nevada, where he graduated in 2020 with senior season averages of 9.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, highlighted by 41.6% three-point shooting. That long range shooting has not sustained into his pro career so far, however, which has consisted of two seasons (plus one game in a third season) in France, working his way up from the NM1 to the ProB. Yet Zouzoua does have a crafty pull-up game from the mid-level areas to go with his spot-ups and frequent transition opportunities, and he can also get his own in isolation, a pure scorer in a point’s body but also a player who can get some buckets on and off the ball. If someone like Kone can check the two, Zouzoua can play the de facto one.

Charles Abouo

  • SG/SF – 6’5 – Born 4th November 1989
  • Le Portel, France

Abouo is a very useful wing to have alongside that line-up of ball-handlers. For four years with BYU, for two years in Spain’s LEB Gold, for a few months in Egypt and Qatar, for four more years in France’s ProB and most recently for three years with Le Portel in the ProA, he has been the Ivorian Wes Matthews, minus the injuries. The incredibly hardy veteran almost never misses a game or takes a possession off; he is instead a reliable three-and-D contributor, capable of defending from two through four with sufficient ability on switches against the ones and fives, and willing to take on whoever. Some spots, some cuts, some drives, plenty of defence, all at a good level. It is an eternally useful package for one of the best ever players from Africa.

Vafessa Fofana

  • SF – 6’6 – Born 12th June 1992
  • Gravelines, France

Take the above blurb about Charles Abouo, and change it slightly. Make him slightly bigger and a bit more athletic. Make him more of a frontcourt defender than a backcourt one. Up the rebounding rate a touch. And reduce the quality of his outside shot. The resultant player is very similar to Vafessa Fofana, even down to their career trajectories to date. Fofana is a mainstay of France’s top division through his defensive range and application therefore, plus the finishing abilities that his athletic profile provides. The shot is below par and the driving is in a straight line, yet he is a multi-position defender and good role player and who seems happy to be one. Every team needs that.

Jean-Philippe Dally

  • SF/PF – 6’8 – Born 8th March 1996
  • Chalons-Reims, France

With a great frame, long limbs but not much shake at all with the handle, Dally’s offensive game is instead primarily focused on his jump shot. And it is a good one, too. Last season in the ProB, Dally averaged 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, doing so with a 41.0% three-point shooting percentage on a .657 three-point range. A wings and corners shooter rather than up top, Dally’s size allows him to get looks away, and although it is almost all catch-and-shoot stuff (as opposed to curls, pull-ups, side dribbles, up-fakes or whatever), he makes a lot of them. That same length makes Dally useful defensively; in summary, then, both the Ivorian national team and the French professional basketball realm benefit from the strong role-claying contributions of each of Dally, Abouo and Fofana.

Mike Fofana

  • PF – 6’9 – Born 5th October 1997
  • Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire

At some point, maybe France will benefit from Fofana, too. The 2020 graduate from Division II Henderson State has instead so far spent his short pro career split between Portugal and back home in Abidjan with the ABC Fighters, and at all stops, he has teased a face-up game in a long 6’9 frame. It is an incomplete game, to be sure; eschewing contact, struggling to finish when under duress and only really a straight-line dribbler, Fofana is also merely a decent shooter rather than a great one. Nonetheless, he is one. And he is a 6’9 one to boot, which is extremely en vogue nowadays. Fofana does not post, get low or get dirty; he instead runs the court, drifts to the wings and spreads the court, using his length to always be able to get a shot away. If he can tidy up the handle, improve the finishing and level up as a shooter, maybe he can become Cote D’Ivoire’s Majok Deng. Upside time is running out, though.

Cedric Bah

  • PF – 6’7 – Born 11th May 1994
  • Vichy Clermont, France

Some quality bigs are missing from this Cote D’Ivoire roster. Mo Bamba, for one. Ismael Sanogo, another. Then there is Matt Costello, of course, who may be the country’s best player despite the egregious nationalisation required to get him eligible. If not him, maybe it would be Alex Poythress. Yet in their stead, Bah has made the roster, providing more of a defensive option than Fofana at the expense of some of the offence. Last year in the ProB, Bah recorded averages of 6.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game, and the important thing to note is that he plays bigger than his measurements. With a great wingspan, Bah plays in the lane, covering ground across the interior, winning deflections with the length and contesting clean up top, while stepping out better than most de facto four men as well. The excess of gambles and shot-block attempts leads to high foul rates and lower-than-you-would-like defensive rebounding production, yet at the level he has been playing at, Bah has been an excellent defensive player and scrappy finisher/roller.

Amadou Sidibe

  • PF/C – 6’8 – Born 25th May 1994
  • Lleida, Spain

Sidibe graduated from Fairfield in 2017, and since then has spent most of his time in Spain, interspersed with a couple of years in France and shorter trips to Portugal and Argentina. For all the length on this Ivorian roster, it does lack for true centre size, and at 6’8, Sidibe is not the answer to this either. Nor does he have the foot speed to be able to defend on the perimeter and in space like some of the others on this list do. And nor does he have a jumper. Nevertheless, in being a pure paint, Sidibe offers a different look, and an efficient old school post-up option. He catches deep and finishes, can be given post-up plays (when he usually goes over the left shoulder, albeit rarely passing back out), sets meaningful screens and commits to the rebounding glass within his area. Rotating slowly and without the quick leap to block shots even when he gets there, Sidibe’s brief is a limited one, but it is to his credit that he sticks to it. And you always need rebounders.

Patrick Tape

  • PF/C – 6’10 – Born 13th June 1998
  • Caledonia Gladiators, Britain

Graduating from San Francisco, Tape spent his first professional season with Scotland’s only professional basketball team, the Caledonia Gladiators. In that first pro season, he averaged 10.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks in 21.7 minutes per game, shooting 64.3% from the field, alongside 58.3% from three-point range on admittedly a small sample size of 12 attempts. Those are contributions all over, then, from a player who has one year at Duke and three at Columbia also on his resume. There’s a lot to like there. Only an occasional shooter at this stage, Tape is instead a roller and post player, hugely efficient without top-tier burst, while also making solid defensive contributions inside and out. He is a good and smart player.

Group A: Italy, Angola, Philippines, Dominican Republic

Group B: China, Serbia, Puerto Rico, South Sudan

Group C: USA, Greece, Jordan, New Zealand

Group D: Egypt, Mexico, Lithuania, Montenegro

Group E: Germany, Finland, Australia, Japan

Group F: Slovenia, Cape Verde, Georgia, Venezuela

Group G: Iran, Spain, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire

Group H: Canada, Latvia, France, Lebanon

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