Still basking in the euphoria of the official D’Tigers list released on Tuesday, the 6 home based players included in the 12-man roster to the XXI Commonwealth Games next month have continued to express their delight.
Kano Pillars trio Azuoma Dike, Abdul Yahaya and Eli Abraham, Gombe Bulls duo of Yakubu Sylvanus Istifanus and Abdulwahab Yakubu, and Mark Mentors forward Musa Usman have all been named on the list compiled by the Alex Nwora-led technical crew.
Twenty home based players who were in camp since January 6, have now been prunned down to 6 while others were sent back home.
On January 23rd, ACLSports reported here that the bulk of the team will be home based players. This was revealed by assistant coach of the D’Tigers, Adewunmi Aderemi at their training camp in Lagos.
Reacting to list released on Tuesday, four members of the home based D’Tigers invited told ACLSports the coaching crew deserve great commendation despite including 6 home based players. They all expressed their delight and expectations for the XXI Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Captain of the home based D’Tigers, Azuoma Dike said it’s an opportunity for the home based players to prove themselves in the national team.
“I am so happy because we are going there to prove a point. We have to give account of ourselves and make the country proud. A lot of things are coming our way now, so many opportunities we don’t have to give up. We have to keep pushing we don’t know if the next one will be like this or may be 8 home based.
“Basketball is a game played all over the world it’s not different from other sports. We are just going there to take the game one at a time.”
Dike who was at the 2017 Afrobasket and 3×3 competition in Lome, Togo admitted that it’s challenging playing for the national team.
“It is not easy to play with different people because time to get used to your team mates is short compared to your club side. I will do my best so I can make the country proud and I believe in my team mates because everyone is a professional.”
His Pillars team mate, Eli Abraham is already relishing his debut with the national team.
“I feel very excited and it’s a privilege to get the national call up. Not everyone gets that opportunity to represent their country. It’s a dream come through for me. I am confident I’ll do my best when called upon. It will be a good competition and we all will give our best and support each other.”
Abraham also expects Nigeria to do well in Australia.
“We will take the games as they come. First thing is to qualify from group stage and we move from there. A big team can have a bad day and the worst team can take the day. It’s a game of basketball anything can happen whether it’s New Zealand, Canada anything can happen. I am hopeful with the crop of players we have from the foreign and home based we will do well.”
He continued,” Having a good number of home based players have excited a lot of Nigerians and I believe they want us to put in our best to bring glory to the country.”
Meanwhile, Gombe Bulls captain Yakubu Istifanus Sylvanus who is also making his debut with the national team describes it as a privilege that will last forever in his heart.
“I feel privileged and excited to be included. I am not under pressure to prove myself because it’s my first call up to the national team. It’s still the same basketball played everywhere. I don’t think fear will work against me and I won’t feel any form of inexperience. The only difference is that it is a different stage and exposure,” he said
Sylvanus said home advantage may count for nothing when Nigeria take on host Australia. He however thinks D’Tigers have enough quality to go all the way to the final.
“Playing against host Australia will in no way affect our game. For example when games are played in Lagos, the fans tend to shift their support to whoever does well whether it’s the host or not. I hope it’s like that when we get to Australia. In all, we will do our best most especially against Australia and Canada they have good basketball program. I hope we return to Nigeria with a gold medal.”
Also making his Commonwealth Games debut is Abdulwahab Yakubu of Gombe Bulls. He hopes Ik Diogu’s presence will bring immense contribution to the team.
”It feels great having to represent my country in my first Commonwealth Games. We are going there to compete and hoping we come back with the gold medal and good we have an experienced captain like Ik Diogu in the team. We will keep doing our best so that home based players can continue to get more call ups to the national team.
“My target is to play well and It won’t be easy especially playing against the host but we will do our best.”
Nigeria will play against host Australia, New Zealand and Canada in Group B.