Essengue Helps Lead Cameroon To Olympic Bid|
Aug. 25, 2007
LAS VEGAS - Former UNLV men's basketball player Gaston Essengue played a major role in helping his native country Cameroon to a bid to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
By advancing to Saturday's title game of the FIBA Africa Championship, Cameroon is guaranteed a spot in next summer's Olympics.
In Saturday's contest, which was played at the Pavilion of Cidadela in Luanda, Angola, host Angola won its fifth straight FIBA Africa title and nine of the last 10 by downing Cameroon 86-72 in the finale of the 11-day tournament. It was Cameroon's first-ever FIBA Africa championship game appearance and its first medal of any kind with the silver in the 2007 tournament. The previous high finish for Cameroon was fourth in 1974.
A longshot to advance far in the championship, Cameroon was led against Angola by Brice Vounang with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Patrick Bouli added 16 points, while Essengue scored 14 points and pulled down five rebounds.
Along with Angola, which earned the automatic bid to the Olympics, Cameroon will be joined by third-place Cape Verde in Beijing from the FIBA Africa Championship.
In Cameroon's 58-52 semifinal win over Egypt on Thursday, Essengue scored 14 points, which was second on the squad behind UCLA junior Luc Richard Mbah A Moute's 20 points.
Cameroon was coached by Lazare Adingono, who was a former Cameroon National Team player and an assistant coach at Canisius College in the United States.
Essengue was a senior on last year's Runnin' Rebel team that won the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship, finished with a 30-7 overall record and made a NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance - the program's first in 16 years. The Runnin' Rebels finished last season ranked No. 14 in the country.
Essengue started 31 of UNLV's 37 games last year and averaged 7.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game and shot 52.8 percent from the field.