Zenith Bank Basketball League champions, First Bank unveiled 10 new players on Friday at the Indoor Sports Hall, National Stadium Lagos. The Lagos based club retained 8 from 18 players who played last season for the club.
At the end of last season, 4 Elephant Girls left for college while 6 were dropped ahead of the 2018 Zenith Bank Basketball league season.
D’Tigress star players Nkechi Akashili and Chioma Udeaja alongside Deborah Nwakama, Nkem Akaraiwe, Mary Isuambuk, Amaka Okonkwo, Biliqis Adekoya and either of Regina Iornumbe and Amarachi Ebeh have been retained by the back to back champions.
14 year old Grace John tops the list of new players for the 2018 league season. She played at the 2017 Milo championship representing Bayelsa State and also at the Mark d ball tournament in Otukpo last December. Other new players unveiled; Sharon Ogheranduku, Bethel Ekperigha, Theresa Joy Ebiege, Isioma Vanessa Oduah, Tobilola Ogedegbe, Ifunanya Okoro, Esther Chinasa Okolie and Kelani Olasumbo.
Former First Bank forward, Bukky Daniel who took time off a year ago to get married, was also among players unveiled on Friday.
First Bank Basketball Club head coach, Peter Ahmedu is elated to have the new players in his fold. He disclosed to ACLSports why he went ahead to recruit more younger players. “I am happy we did the screening and unveiling early so we have 1-2 months training before the start of the 2018 season.The screening was very tedious, we invited some players, some came on their own, I am happy some who came on their own made the team.”
“It was in three stages: skill ability, we picked 12 from 34 who came for the screening, went into coordination and fitness which lasted for another 3 days, then we merged the old and new players to determine if they were capable of measuring up with the older ones. We eventually dropped 2 players from the 12. I am very impressed they are almost at their level. It gave me hope that the screening process was not a failed one.” The former Mark Mentors coach believes bringing in 10 players to the team won’t affect the team chemistry. “Bringing in 10 new players won’t distabilise the team. If I am building a long term team, I should be talking about more of the younger ones taking over in 2 years time with more experience,” said Ahmedu.
Ahmedu said he has successfully instilled his philosophy on the new players during the screening exercise. “First Bank is a winning team and we believe that hardwork pays. The new players understand the team they are coming into. We are going to do more than we are doing before to put them on their feet even if we have to increase our trainings from 4 to 6 hours daily so we can meet up our targets.”
Meanwhile, 14 year old Grace John who is the youngest of them all is determined to be one of the best in the 2018 league season. “It all about hard work and determination. Like the coach said, they first saw me at the 2017 Milo Championship where I represented Bayelsa and also at the Mark d ball tournament, Otukpo and then invited me for the screening exercise. I gave everything during the screening.
“By next season, I want to be the one of the best players in the league. I will not be intimidated by their heights or the experienced players in the team or in the league,” she said.