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15 Mar 2021 By ASHOK PUROHIT

New national U15 basketball team coach Mohammed al Qusaimi has ‘high hopes’ from his young hoopsters after holding his first training camp at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex recently 

As a basketball player, he has won titles aplenty, and as a club coach, he led Nizwa to more than a dozen domestic league titles. Success as a player, and then as a club coach, has given Mohammed al Qusaimi the confidence of aspiring for more glory on the court. 

Qusaimi, who was recently appointed the national youth (U15) coach by the Oman Basketball Association (OBA), admits that taking over the national youth team is a ‘new challenge’ but has high hopes from the limited pool of players he has, as they prepare for regional competitions in the forthcoming months. Qusaimi succeeded Bosnian coach Mladen Ostojic, who parted ways with the OBA in January. 

In an exclusive chat with Muscat Daily after concluding his first training camp for the boys for nine days at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Qusaimi said, “It is great to be back on the courts after the  disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Taking over as the national youth team coach is quite a different experience and a much bigger responsibility from being coach of Nizwa Club.” 

Nizwa is the domestic basketball powerhouse, having won the league a record 15 times since their first in 2003, and Qusaimi has been a member of the coaching set-up since the inaugural title. 

Qusaimi said, “To take over as the coach of the under-15 national team is a new challenge.  I am ready for it. I know that the job is not an easy one but I have the confidence to get the best out of the young boys. 

“I have tasted success for the past many years with my club, Nizwa. But now, all eyes are on me to prove my credentials with the national team. I thank the Oman basketball for their trust in me.

“I hope to deliver with these young amazing boys. Having worked closely on the domestic front, I have the advantage of knowing the boys’ weaknessess and strengths.” 

In his remarks after concluding the nine-day camp, Qusaimi, who had a previous short stint as a national senior team coach in 2012, said that his boys were ‘ambitious and talented’. The camp will now continue on weekends as they prepare for the GCC tournament in August. 

“The boys have a bright future and they displayed a lot of desire to excel during my first camp, where I had called up 18 players. 

“We do not have a large pool of players but along with the help of Oman School Sports Association, we are trying to scout for more talented and taller players now. At the first camp, we had players from Dhofar, Seeb, Ahli-Sidab, Al Ittifaq, Mudhaibi, Nizwa and Quriyat clubs.” 

Qusaimi said that his boys displayed lot of eagerness and enthusiasm to learn and created a positive atmosphere during the camp. “The fact that they are keen to learn is important in  developing their skills and fundamentals,” he said. 

The coach said that he was highly impressed by few of the players during the camp and named Al Qasim al Zuhaimi, Ahmed al Saadi, Mohammed al Wahaibi and Abdulrehman al Mamari as the ones who stood out. During the camp Qusaimi worked on their skills and physical fitness and said that there was a need to work more on their mental strengths. 

“In the past, I have noticed that our youngsters would get overawed when they went to compete at the regional championships as they are not used to playing in front of large crowd and against experienced rivals. I talked about it and we will work in this direction along with the skills and fundamentals,” he said. 

The coach said the training sessions on weekends will continue till the academic session gets over.  

“We will then have a long domestic camp before holding  an overseas camp ahead of our participation in the GCC event in Bahrain. 

“We need to prepare well as the aim is to better our previous record in the championships. The best results so far have been third-place that we achieved twice in the past but I am  confident that I can bring better results,” he said. 

U15 boys to play in men’s league for the first time  

The OBA currently has only the national men’s and the U15 teams and organises only the men’s league. 

In a bold move, Qusaimi has convinced the OBA to make an exception for the first time and got the nod to field his U15 team in the men’s domestic league. 

“A lot have been talked about not fielding young players in the senior league. But I don’t agree to that logic. We now have players, aged 14 and 15, playing in the world championships and at the Asian level.  

“I believe that my boys should be allowed to play in the senior league. They will only learn and gain from playing against the top clubs. 

“I am happy that OBA has agreed to my proposal and for the first time from the next round of the ongoing men’s league, my boys will play against the top clubs, who also have couple of professional players in their sides.  

“We have seven teams in the league now and the first round will conclude by the end of the month. The second round is expected to begin next month. We will look for few wins and even if we lose, our attempts would be to go down fighting.” 

Qusaimi’s team is preparing for the GCC Championship, scheduled in Manama, Bahrain, in August. The tournament will also serve as a qualifier for the Asian U15 Championship. 

The ongoing men’s league comprises defending champions Nizwa, Seeb, Ahli-Sidab, Dhofar, Quriyat, Salalah and Al Bashayer. 

Besides Qusaimi, the U15 team’s support staff includes team’s physio Hammad al Subhi, assistant coach Alla al Hadhrami and team manager is Ghassan al Busaidi. 


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