If there has been one constant for Mali in recent years it has been the production of frontcourt powerhouse Djenebou Sissoko.
While understandably the WNBA experienced Hamchetou Maiga was always the name in the headlines, it has been Sissoko who has really shone during the last few tournaments.
Ahead of their first appearance at the Olympic Games back in 2008, Sissoko rightfully spoke of how Maiga was an inspiration to a generation and now, young players are beginning to look more and more at Sissoko herself as a role model as she carries the hopes of the national team more and more.
Having played for Mali since she was a teenager, the center is now approaching the veteran stage of her career which means in addition to her warrior status, she is also one of the leaders of the team.
When Sissoko looks back at what happened in Beijing it leaves a bitter-sweet taste. For while Mali failed to leave China with a victory and lost all five games they played, she produced a couple of breakout performances to showwcase her abilities playing at the elite level.
Most notably, she exploded in the game against Czech Republic with a monstrous double-double of 24 points and 13 rebounds and while her performance against the USA was forgettable to say the least, she came back with strong showings against China and Spain.
In many ways, the last Olympic Games has acted as a springboard for Sissoko to really flourish as a senior member of the Mali team. She averaged double-digits in Beijing and has since repeated the feat in all of the three major tournaments she has played since. She has also worked hard on the glass to average more than six rebounds per game.
At club level, Sissoko has shone brightly in a very competitive Polish League with a number of different clubs and also enjoyed a successful season with Sdent Helios Basket in Switzerland where she won silverware and personal acclaim.
Strong under the basket and on the glass, Sissoko is the type of player Mali need to ensure no opponent takes liberties in the paint.
Offensively, she is on form having averaged a superb 63.1% from the field at the FIBA Africa Championship in 2011 – even if it wasn’t quite enough to inspire her team to gold.