Gombe Bulls captain, Yakubu Istifanus has attributed their poor outing at the 2017 FIBA Africa Champions Cup to “inexperience”. Gombe Bulls failed to advance from the group stage of the competition in Tunisia, and eventually finshed in 11th place averaging 66.7 PPG, 34.9 RPG and 9.7 APG.
The experienced small forward was pleased to perform his leadership duties for the debutants at the continenal showpiece. “My experience in Tunisia was quite enjoyable because I had played for other clubs like Kano Pillars and Nigeria Customs unlike most of my teammates who were just playing for the first time on the continent which was our biggest challenge”
“Being the captain of the side wasn’t too much of a load for me. As the captain of the team, it’s expected I carry the team on my shoulder which I usually do on and off the court. It’s my responsibility and it’s makes the work easy for the coach,” he said.
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Gombe Bulls played against Union Sportive Monastir (Tunisia), Sport Libolo (Angola), Groupement Sportive Petroliers (Algeria), Ferroviario Beira (Mozambique), and ASB Mazembe of DR Congo in Group B. On why his team couldn’t do well against other sides in the group, the 26 year old believes Nigeria Basketball league is still not at par with other leagues in Africa.
“The level of our own league can’t be compared to theirs. They have an improved level of Basketball and thats why they are better than us. For Gombe Bulls, we didn’t boost our squad with any American player like Pillars did. The American ( Jimmy Williams) that was brought for Pillars joined them late in Tunisia but the little time he played, there was a big difference in the team.”
The influential captain explained how they were able to cause one of the biggest upset in the competition by beating Libolo, the only win Bulls recorded in the group stage.
“Our win against Libolo surprised many in Tunisia and beyond. Usually my policy is that I don’t underrate any team, I hope to win any game I play. It was a glorious moment because they actually underrated us. They didn’t start their first five, brought in their bench, before they could realise we were already up and then it was too late the game was on our side and we refused to back down,” Istifanus revealed to ACLSports
The Gombe Bulls captain scored double digits in 6 of 7 of their games and averaged 12.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 1.6 APG. He is among the 20 players invited to the Commonwealth Games camp in Lagos and hopes to make the final cut after being dropped from the final list of the 2017 Afrobasket.