CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University assistant women’s basketball coach Christelle N’Garsanet has been named the head coach of the Ivory Coast’s Women’s Basketball National Team, the Fédération Ivoirienne de Basket-Ball announced last week.

N’Garsanet, in her eighth season as an assistant on Cindy Stein‘s coaching staff at Southern, is scheduled to make her debut as Ivory Coast’s head coach at the 2021 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket from Sept. 17-26. The appointment will not have an impact on N’Garsanet’s work with the Salukis, as the national team typically plays during the summer months. The Marcory, Ivory Coast native is the first African-born former female basketball player to be named the head coach of an African women’s national team.

“It’s a great honor to be the first,” N’Garsanet said. “Having played for the national team, I was already excited for the opportunity to be the head coach of my country’s national team but to know I’m the first African born former female basketball player to hold the position makes it that much more special. Hopefully I can lead the way and be a role model so that more women will follow in my footsteps.”

N’Garsanet has extensive national team experience, having begun playing for the junior national team when she was just 13. In 2000, she made her debut on the national team in Tunisia at the 2000 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket. In 2009, N’Garsanet helped the Ivory Coast advance to the medal round at the FIBA Women’s Afrobasket for the first time since 1977. During the eight-game tournament, she averaged 8.9 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds to lead Ivory Coast to a 5-3 record and a fourth-place finish. The FIBA Women’s Afrobasket are played biennially and the tournament serves to qualify teams into the FIBA World Cup as well as the Olympics. Most recently, Ivory Coast went 2-4 and finished eighth at the 2019 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket.

“At first, I thought I would play forever,” N’Garsanet said when asked if she had dreamed of ever being head coach when she played. “But as I got into coaching and continued to get more experience, my dreams and goals changed. The past couple of years it really became more of a dream of mine to coach for the Ivory Coast national team, even in an assistant role, but the opportunity came to be the head coach and I jumped on it.”

The Ivory Coast is a multilingual country and the official language is French. N’Garsanet, who is fluent in both French and English, is brushing up on her French basketball terms after having spent the entirety of her coaching career in English-speaking countries.

“I’m trying to refresh my French, specifically the basketball terms,” N’Garsanet said. “A lot of my basketball knowledge is in English. I will be communicating with the team in French and the goal is to do so as much as possible.”

N’Garsanet began her playing career for Illinois Community College, where she helped the Cougars capture the 2003 NJCAA DII National Championship. She then transferred to play three seasons for Stein at Mizzou, where she earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors as a senior. The New York Liberty selected N’Garsanet in the third round of the 2006 WNBA Draft and she played a season with the Liberty before playing a season overseas in Poland. She returned to basketball as an assistant coach at ICC in 2011, where she spent two seasons before joining Stein’s coaching staff at SIU prior to the 2013-14 season.

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