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Karim Coulibaly, Mali go on historic FIBA World Cup run

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The Pitt commit played a key role in the U19 team’s journey to the title game

Los Angeles Clippers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Pitt commit Karim Coulibaly and Mali’s U19 national basketball team went on a historic run in the FIBA U19 World Cup, as they became the first representatives of an African nation to reach the championship game of the international competition. However, the Malians’ unprecedented journey came to an end on Sunday, as they fell to the United States 93-79 in the final in Heraklion, Greece.

Coulibaly was pivotal to Mali’s early success, as he led the team to a 93-79 win over Latvia to open group play. He contributed 22 points, four steals, four assists and six rebounds in what would go down as his biggest game of the competition. Over the course of Mali’s run, he averaged 13.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Coulibaly also posted double-digit point totals and grabbed at least six rebounds in five of the team’s seven games.

Prior to Mali’s run, no African team had ever reached so much as the quarterfinals of the U19 World Cup, and the Malian team faced a tough road to the final, as it was an underdog in all but one of its matchups. As the No. 27 team in the world, Mali faced No. 13 Latvia, No. 2 Canada, No. 10 Australia, No. 28 New Zealand, No. 12 Puerto Rico and No. 5 France before facing the No. 1 U.S. team. Mali’s only losses came to Australia and the United States.

Coulibaly’s performance shed some light on how quickly he might be able to adapt to the college game, as he faced Division I talent during his time in Greece, including Kira Lewis of Alabama, Samson Froling of Creighton, Tyrese Haliburton of Iowa State and Reggie Perry of Mississippi State. He didn’t shy away from the challenge, either, as he posted some of his best games against the tournament’s most loaded teams, and that caught the attention of Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, who praised Coulibaly after the championship.

”Karim Coulibaly will be a very good program guy for Jeff Capel at Pitt,” Rothstein wrote in a tweet on Sunday afternoon. “Very active on the glass. Has a nose for the ball.”

Time will tell if Coulibaly’s game translates as well to the ACC as it did to international competition, but at this point, he is beginning to look like a savvy pickup by Capel and his staff who could adequately address Pitt's frontcourt issues in the upcoming season.