Basketball: The Nwora effect on the D’Tigers

Basketball: The Nwora effect on the D’Tigers

Former Cape Verde coach Alex Nwora was appointed on August 9, 2017 to lead the Nigeria senior men’s national team, D’Tigers to their Afrobasket title defence in September 2017. His appointment came after the Musa Kida-led Nigeria Basketball Federation couldn’t continue the marriage the Tijani Umar-board had with American William Voigt who led the team to their maiden title in Tunisia three years ago.

It didn’t start on a smooth ride for Nwora who had to put together a new set of players in weeks for the Senegal/Tunisia mission. Most players who featured at the 2015 Afrobasket and 2016 Rio Olympic Games didn’t honour the call as a result of the internal wranglings in the NBBF, unpaid allowances, contracts, injuries while it was also rumoured that some were convinced not to honour Nwora’s invitation and would rather have Voigt back in the team.

Many Nigerians did not give the the Nwora-tutored team a chance going into the Championship due to the fact that the coach was newly appointed, new team put together weeks before the Afrobasket with only short time to prepare. But the D’Tigers defied the odds to record just two defeats to DR Congo in the group stage and Tunisia in the final.

The D’Tigers achieved more milestones under Nwora in 2018 participating in two major competitions, FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and the Commonwealth Games in Australia although they had a disappointing outing in the latter. In February, the side started off their World Cup qualifying campaign with 3-0 record in Bamako, Mali beating Uganda, Rwanda and host Mali.

Father and son relationship

D’Tigers extended their unbeaten run to 6-0 in the June window against the same opponents but this time around it was hosted in the renovated Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.

Jordan Nwora

Seven new faces made the roster for the June window in front of the home crowd for the first time, Apochi Agada, Moses Kingsley, Augustine Okosun, Keith Omoerah, Mehinti Idowu, Jai Braxton Ogbueze and Nwora’s son Jordan. Coach Nwora disclosed to in June how his wife played a huge part in convincing his son to come play for Nigeria

Alex and Jordan became the latest father-son/coach-player pair to represent a national team in African basketball in recent years.Three years ago, former Egypt Olympian Ahmed Marei coached his son Assem at FIBA AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia, in a tournament where the Egyptians claimed a Fifth-Place finish.

The team successfully secured a spot in the Second Round of the World Cup African Qualifiers in September becoming the first team to advance to the 12-team tournament. Jordan had a memorable debut with the D’Tigers as he won the hearts of fans putting up great numbers most notably against Mali in the third game.

The 19 year old forward set a new record for most points scored in a game at FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers, 36 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals as Nigeria demolished Mali 93-53. The mark previously belonged to Chamberlain Oguchi who finished with a game-high 35 points in a 79-73 defeat to France at 2012 London Olympics.

Return of the big boys

In an attempt to maintain their unbeaten run and also qualify for the 32-team World Cup in China, Alex Nwora called up five members of the team that helped the country win their first-ever African title three years ago. The Aminu brothers Al Farouq and Alade, Stanley Okoye, Ben Uzoh and Ike Diogu last played together at FIBA AfroBasket 2015, where they defeated Angola in the final.

The D’Tigers had Central Africa Republic, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal to contend with in Group F. After beating CAR and the Ivorians in their first two games, the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium was not enough to accommodate fans as the D’Tigers dismantled Senegal 89-61 in a win that saw Nigeria extend their World Cup Qualifiers to a 9-0 record. Nigeria’s latest success marked their return to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years with 3 games to left to play.

Nwora’s absence in Australia

As the best team in Africa, Nigeria represented Africa in the men’s basketball event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in April. Nwora couldn’t lead the team due to a back illness he suffered before the Games. On March 13, the NBBF released a 12-man roster for the Games having just one key member of the squad, captain Ike Diogu.

The team was made up of 6 foreign based players and 6 home based.  Nigeria was grouped alongside host Australia, New Zealand and Canada in Group B. Despite effort from Diogu, it wasn’t enough to carry the team to the next round as the D’Tigers lost all three group games scandalously including the qualifying game against Scotland ending their hopes for a medal.

The team missed availability of key members of the foreign pros due to club engagements, the home based players who were inactive in the league for 6 months could do little and the head coach was not available as bulk of the job was on his two assistants, Abdulrahman Mohammed and Adewunmi Aderemi.

The D’Tigers will have a busy time in the upcoming year and once again, Nigerians would love to see how the Nwora effect will come into play in the two major competitions they will participating in 2019; the Afrobasket Championship and the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China between August 31 and September 15, 2019 not forgetting the last FIBA World Cup qualifying window in February  2019.

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