The men’s basketball team became the first team sport to secure a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after defeating China 86-73 points in the last classification game of the 2019 FIBA Men World Cup.
The resilient team took the initiative in the second quarter from China who won the first quarter, 21-19 points as they asserted their authority to end the first half, 35-31 points.
Playing against China who were also desperate for an automatic ticket from Asia, the players came to the party to clinch the 3rd and 4th quarters, 25-20, 26-22 on the day that 4 players recorded double figures.
Josh Okogie who shot 16 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds to help his team to a win was unanimously voted as the man of the match while Nnamdi Vincent scored 14 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound.
Ekpe Udoh and Chimezie Metu scored 13 and 11 points respectively as the D’Tigers recorded the highest number of wins (3) in a single World Cup.
Head Coach, Alex Nwora described the win as a sweet victory which was enough to compensate the team for missing out of a place in the quarter finals.
Nigeria’s Minister of Sports, Dare Sunday immediately after the win in a phone conversation with the team congratulated them for the win which has elevated the status of Nigerian sports globally.
NBBF President, Engr Musa Kida said the Olympics ticket and the boys performance was a testament to hardwork of the board and the technical crew.
It was yet another impressive performance from D’Tigers as they defeated their fierce West African rivals, Cote D’Ivoire 83-66 points in their first classification game at the ongoing 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The team was inspired by Al-Farouq Aminu with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to emerge the top performer.
D’Tigers who have since set their target on an automatic Olympic Games qualification started in a fierce fashion to win the first quarter, 24-18 points.
Not to be outdone and inspired by Deon Thompson, the Ivorians stepped up their offensive play to win the second quarter, 17-13points as the first half ended with just two points advantage for D’Tigers, 37-35pts.
Some crucial treys from Nnamdi Vincent and Stan Okoye proved decisive in the 3rd quarter against the familiar foes who were not ready to roll over without a fight.
Vincent contributed 15 points, 2 rebounds while Ekpe Udoh had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist in a match that 5 players scored double digits.
Commenting after the game, Head Coach, Alex Nwora again praised the team for beautifully executing the game plan.
“I think we did a good job today to contain a well coached Ivorian team. I am proud of these guys and their efforts. I think we have one more game to worry about against China on Sunday”.
The man of the match, Al-Farouq said that with the new goal being a qualification for the Olympics, the team came out to get the job done.
“That is our goal now obviously. We got knocked out of the contention to get a medal so we had to change our vision and continue to make sure that we keep Nigerian basketball, playing every year and compete. So, we want to ensure that we do the best to qualify for the Olympics.”
On the team’s performance in the second half, he said, “We wanted to come out in the second half and play what we thought should have been. First quarter, we got a bit of a lead, the second quarter dropped. We told ourselves we needed a good 3rd quarter because we didn’t want it to come down to the stretch. We are proud of the way we executed the offence and defence to extend the lead.”
The win is the 6th win by Nigeria in as many as seven meetings between both sides.
As it stands, the team is the highest ranked African team at the World Cup ahead of their last game against host- China.
A win will see them book a place in Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Nigeria bounced back against Korea to record its first win 108-66 points at the ongoing FIBA World Cup holding in China.
The win after 2 previous attempts and losses to Russia and Argentina was enough to put the team in contention to pick the 2020 Olympics sole automatic ticket on offer for Africa.
The team who were fired up minutes before the game by the NBBF President, Engr Musa Kida shot to the lead seconds to the end of first quarter courtesy of a last gasp 2 points layup from Ike Iroegbu to win the quarter, 17-15 points.
Second quarter also ended in similar fashion as D’Tigers extended their lead to 18 points to end the first half 49-31 points.
Michael Eric was the top performer of the night with 17points and 9 rebounds to lead Nigeria’s 42-point win which became the highest point margin against a non-African opponent.
Captain, Ike Diogu also put in a sterling performance with 16 points and 6 rebounds while Chimezie Metu with 15 points was the highest rebounder of the day with 9.
Speaking at the post match conference, Head Coach, Alex Nwora said finally getting the win and getting their 2020 Olympics qualification back on track was comforting.
“Korea was good, but we were taller and we used that to our advantage. On the court, our tactics worked out well and I must commend my players for a job well done.”
With mixed feelings, Alex said, “We didn’t come to the World Cup just to fight for the Olympics ticket. We came with the mindset of a podium finish, but sadly we could not achieve this. We are happy to be back in the race for the Olympics.”’
The coach said the lessons have been learnt as attention has now shifted to the classification games to be decided in Guangzhou.
It was yet another harrowing day on the court for D’Tigers as they suffered another 81-94 points loss against a better and experienced Argentina.
Despite a spirited effort from the young side paraded by Alex Nwora and ending the first half 43 points apiece against the 5th rated team in the world, it was not enough on the day managing to win only second quarter 17-28, 26-15, 18-29, 20-22.
Josh Okogie who on Sunday celebrated his 21st birthday, again was the top performer for the team with 18 points, 5 assists and 2 rebounds.
Jordan Nwora scored 12 points, 2 assists and caught 3 rebounds during the 20.51minutes he spent on the court.
Al-Farouk Aminu put in a good shift defensively for the team with 8 rebounds and 3 points
Speaking during the post match press conference, Head Coach, Alex Nwora said he was proud of the team and that D’Tigers lost to a better side despite battling hard to grind out a win.
Nwora said that it was not the result the boys wanted but that in basketball, losing and winning were all part of the game.
“I am proud of them. We battled for our lives, we battled back for a better deficit unfortunately, we fell short in some areas.”
Nwora said the D’Tigers team is a young team and have not played together for a long time compared to most teams competing at the World Cup.
“This particular team is a very young team. Some of the players are playing together for the first time. I believe if we continue blending this team, we can only get better if we keep this team together.”
He said attention will now be focused on the last group game against Korea as the search continues for the win.
Another feather was added to the already decorated cap of the Nigeria Basketball Federation in the wee hours of Thursday in China.
The NBBF was recognised as the federation with the Most Improved Women Team between 2017 – 2019 at the plenary session of FIBA Congress and Awards Ceremony which took place in Beijing on Thursday.
Ogunade (Vice President) and Col Sam Ahmedu (rtd) (International Representative) during the celebration witnessed by 156 National Federations.
The women team under the period in review won 2 FIBA Afrobasket championships and became the first African country to qualify for the quarter finals of the 2018 Women World Cup in Spain.
Speaking after the ceremony, Kida said the award is a validation of the improved status of Nigerian basketball since the board was elected in 2017.
“As a board, we have invested our personal money, time and energy in the last 2 years to drive basketball in Nigeria. Earlier in the year, we were celebrated by FIBA Africa which spurred us to do more.”
“We have gone a step further to do more which has once again been rewarded with another AFROBASKET title in Senegal which has seen our unbeaten run in the championship stretching to 14 over the course of 3 championships”, Kida said.
An elated Kida thanked every stakeholder who contributed to basketball growth saying the award is just the first of many more to come and a call for more sacrifice from all.
The FIBA Award for success and excellent work was picked up by Kida.
The Minister of Sports, Dare Sunday took to twitter to congratulate the NBBF for elevating basketball since coming into office 2 years ago.
He pledged government’s unflinching support to the board led by Kida saying they are living up to the expectations of Nigerians and sports stakeholders.
Two major partners of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Zenith Bank and Total E&P played host to winners of the victorious 2019 FIBA Afrobasket winners D’Tigress at their corporate offices, less than 24 hours after their arrival.
Title sponsors of the Zenith Women Basketball League and Total E&P, sponsors of the Men’s Division 1 and 2 who described the reception as befitting of the African champions, said it was imperative for the girls to be feted and made to understand what they have done for the nation.
Zenith Bank Managing Director, Ebenezer Onyeagwu expressed happiness that the continued investment of the financial institution in Basketball has continued to yield tremendous results on the local and international scene.
“Zenith Bank is so proud of your achievements despite the odds going all out to defend your title in style. As a proud sponsor of the Women’s elite league, we are elated that our partnership with the NBBF has continued to grow and translate to positive results everybody can see.”
Zenith in their tradition disclosed that the team will be credited with a token as their own way of saying “Thank you.”
At Total E&P, Tai Oshisanya, Finance Director while welcoming the team said seeing the team back at Total E&P with the trophy was a thing of joy and a result of the hard work put into the team by the NBBF board, the Technical Crew and the players.
The Executive Director, Corporate Affairs and Communications, Biodun Afolabi described the win as the needed ray of light in such a time like this for all Nigerians.
“Your victory means a lot to the nation. What you have done is not just for yourself, your family or the NBBF but for the whole nation. You are setting examples for the whole nation with young boys and girls looking up to you that if you could do it, we can do it also.”
While responding, team captain, Adaora Elonu said the dynasty that they are trying to create is finally taking shape with what they have been able to achieve in the past 3 years with 2 Afrobasket titles and an 8th placed finish at the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup.
“It was important that we came back home and appreciate our fans for their support. We are definitely on a mission. We implore more of Government’s support and corporate organisations to invest in basketball which will make our journey smoother”.
While responding at the event, the NBBF President, Engr Musa Kida appreciated Zenith Bank and Total for deeming it fit to accord the team the deserved recognition after defeating Senegal in their backyard to successfully defend the title they won in 2017.
“Zenith Bank’s passion for women’s basketball development in Nigeria is second to none. Their support for the league and the national team is well documented and we appreciate every bit of it as a federation.”
Reacting during the reception organised by Total, Kida who also doubles as Total Nigeria Deputy Managing Director lauded the recent and growing partnership between NBBF and Total which he hoped can get better.
“We are excited at the immense possibilities that this partnership can bring. Today is all about our courageous women.”
D’Tigress went on an unbeaten run of five games defeating host- Senegal in the final to retain their African title.
The team is currently on a 14-game unbeaten run dating back to 2015 when they defeated Angola in the 3rd placed game to clinch the bronze medal.
The Men’s senior national basketball team will tonight leave for China for the final phase of their 2019 FIBA World Cup preparation.
The team’s General Manager, Musa Adamu revealed that the team had to wait for the NNBF President to return from Senegal where he went to cheer the D’Tigress to their fourth African title before they could leave.
“I want to thank the President, Engr Musa Kida specially for again making our trip possible and to participate at the World Cup. Without him and the support of the federation, this would have been a different story altogether.”
With many wondering whether the much anticipated financial intervention by the Federal Government has come, the NBBF President, Engr Musa Kida said the federation had to internally source for funds through loans.
Kida said, the federation cannot afford to allow Nigeria who became the first country in the world to qualify for the world cup to miss out or go to China as mere participants.
“The journey has not been easy due to delay in the release of funds by the Federal Government. The federation has bent backwards once again to ensure that we do what we need to do to save Nigeria from global embarrassment by missing the World Cup.”
Kida expressed optimism that the Federal Government will intervene and rescue the team and the federation financially before the competition commences.
“We are trying to internally generate funds from sponsorships, but before then, the government must support us. The national teams are national property which must be catered for by the government”
In his conclusion, the NBBF President said the recent achievement of the D’Tigress and the heroic welcome by Nigerians after winning the 2019 FIBA Afrobasket in Senegal has continued to encourage the federation to trudge on despite the daunting challenges.
The coach Alex Nwora tutored side which has been in camp since July 7th will participate in the Peak Invitational International tournament between the 22nd and 27th of August.
Nigeria will play against fellow World Cup bound Iran, Montenegro before playing Poland in Yangzhou as part of their preparations.
The World Cup which has seen Nigeria grouped alongside Russia, Argentina and Korea starts on Saturday, 31st of August.