As the male Nigerian basketball team, D’Tigers depart for Tunisia tomorrow coach Alex Nwora revealed during their final training session in Lagos that the team will put up a good fight to defend their Afrobasket title at the 2017 edition of the Championship.
The team who have been camped in Lagos for 2 weeks have been training hard in preparation for the competition which tips off on the 8th of September in Tunisia and Senegal.
D’Tigers have been drawn against Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and D.R. Congo in the group stage. Reacting to their group stage opponents, D’Tigers head coach, Alex Nwora said ‘our opponents are very good. Our first game is against Ivory Coast, a very good and experienced team that has been together for so long. They have a couple of players that have been at the Afrobasket before and some others who have been in the national team for a very long time so it is going to be a very big challenge for us considering that this is our first time together and we had a very short time to prepare, but the condition provided for us here was very good to help us catch up on the time lost.’
Team captain, Ike Diogu who plays for Chinese side, Jiangsu Monkey King who also shared his coach’s sentiments said: ‘every team is good, really good. Any team is capable of beating us just like we are capable of beating any team. So we have to take it one game at a time and we have to respect our opponents. It’s a tough group but I’m excited about it.’
As defending champions, it is no news that Nigeria would be the team to beat and with majority of the players that won the championship 2 years ago failing to make the team to Tunisia, Ike Diogu said “These are two totally different teams. The team that won the championship 2 years ago had been together for a very long time and most of us here are all coming together for the first time. Talent wise, we’re a very good and strong team but we don’t have the same bond like the last team.”
Coach Nwora however revealed his confidence in the ability of the boys, adding that they have to go with the vision of the new President of the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), Musa Kida. “We have very good players and they’re very young. It’s a whole new breed of players but we will do our best and fight hard to defend the title to the best of our abilities and build on the vision of the President of the Federation, which is to integrate the local players and grow basketball in Nigeria from the grassroots. In this tournament win or lose, we’re looking to build on the outcome to prepare for the world championships,” coach Nwora said.
Considering the female national basketball team recently won the championship, Nigerian fans are hopeful that their male counterparts can defend their Afrobasket title but here’s Diogu’s message to the very expectant Nigerian fans: “We just want to come out and play hard and take one game at a time. Obviously, the main goal is to win the championship just like everybody else but we can’t get too ahead of ourselves and we just want to take one game at a time and make sure we play hard in every game.”