MISSOULA — Incoming Montana men’s basketball transfer Kendal Manuel will add to his family’s basketball legacy in Mozambique by representing the country’s national team in trying to qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Manuel, a former Billings Skyview standout, will play in three games from Friday through Sunday in the African Qualifiers portion of the tournament. It’s his first time playing for Mozambique.

Manuel’s dad, Paulo Manuel, left Mozambique to play at Miles Community College and later Rocky Mountain College; he also played on Mozambique’s national team. An aunt from Mozambique, Clarisse Machanguana, made the national championship game at Old Dominion and played in the WNBA. One of his dad’s uncles won an African championship for Mozambique, he said.

“It’s important to represent Mozambique because my family has a rich history in basketball in Mozambique and I want to continue that,” Manuel told 406mtsports.com.

Manuel is able to play for Mozambique because he has dual citizenship with the southeastern African country and with the United States. He was born in Billings, moved to Mozambique from ages 4 to 7, and lived in Maine, New Orleans and Melstone before he returned to Billings in 2010.

Manuel is the lone player from a U.S. college on the team; the rest play on club teams across Mozambique, he said.

“I wanted to play for Mozambique because it is where my dad is from and where I grew up when I was younger, so I consider it part of my home, too,” Manuel said.

There are 16 countries divided into groups of four in the African Qualifiers; five countries will make the 32-team World Cup. Mozambique has never qualified for the World Cup.

Manuel and Mozambique played two international friendly games with Rwanda in preparation for this week’s tournament games. He tallied 19 points, four rebounds and one assist in a 93-88 loss, and 10 points, one rebound and one assist in an 81-68 win.

Mozambique will play Ivory Coast at 10:30 a.m. MT Friday, Central African Republic at 10:30 a.m. MT Saturday and Senegal at 1 p.m. MT Sunday in the second leg of the first round in Senegal, a northwestern African country. Mozambique beat Ivory Coast and Central African Republic and lost to Senegal in the first leg of group play in February.

The top three teams from each of the four groups move on to the second round. Mozambique and Senegal are 2-1, and Central African Republic and Ivory Coast are 1-2.

The 12 teams advancing to the second round will be divided into groups of six and will play Sept. 10-18 and Feb. 20-28. The top two teams from each group and the best third-ranked team will earn a berth in the FIBA World Cup Aug. 31-Sept. 15, 2019, in China.

“As of right now, this is the only qualifying window I can play in because of school, unless I am able to leave for just that week in September and February, but that has yet to be discussed,” Manuel said. “It would be nice to be able to play due to having to sit out (college basketball) this year.”

Manuel, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, transferred to the Griz from Oregon State in May. He’ll sit out the 2018-19 season as a redshirt junior because of NCAA transfer rules. He’ll then have at least one year of eligibility remaining and could potentially have a second if he submits and receives a medical hardship waiver since he missed his freshman season with an injury.

“What I’m hoping to get out of this experience is an opportunity to help my team qualify for the next window so our country can be put on the map for basketball,” Manuel said. “And also to showcase my talents for scouts, especially since I can’t play next year due to transfer rules.”

Frank Gogola covers Griz men's basketball and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at Frank.Gogola@406mtsports.com.

Load comments