The Nigerian national basketball team, D’Tigers recently played at the 2013 FIBA Africa Championship (Afrobasket), hosted in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from 20th to 31st August, 2013. Basketball pundits across the nation were surprised that the team was ousted Senegal in the quarter finals despite going 3 – 0 in its first three matches. Though the team suffered losses as some of its key players were injured, criticisms were thrown in the direction of the team’s handlers. D’Tigers Coach, Ayo Bakare, provides answers to ten commonly asked questions regarding the performance of the team. Excerpts:
1) Did the Federation fail to properly register Chamberlain Oguchi?
No, the Federation registered him properly and received written clearance and authorization for him to play in Afrobasket 2013. Chamberlain’s suspension was due to an alleged infraction of the FIBA anti-doping rules. This alleged infraction had purportedly taken place several months ago in June while he was in Spain but FIBA had not been able to locate him to serve the suspension order till Afrobasket 2013. Very unfortunate for the Nigerian team but there was nothing the Federation could do about it even though there was absolutely no notice given.
2) With such a rash of injuries in Abidjan, were the players on the Nigerian team unfit?
No, they were very fit with most of them having just recently concluded their club regular seasons and playoffs, in addition to the preparation schedule of the national team. The injuries were just unbelievable bad luck.
3) Should more local players have made the team aside from Stanley Gumut?
Stanley did not make the team because he was a home-based player; he earned his spot on the team. Every other home-based player had the same opportunity as Stanley and if they had merited inclusion, they would have made the team just like he did.
4) Does the Head Coach have anything personal against Abubakar Usman or any other home-based players?
It is preposterous and ridiculous to suggest that any coach would jeopardize his chances of winning, purely to settle personal scores. Aside from this, the records of this particular Head coach speak volumes about his impartiality and fairness. Perhaps it is time that someone tries to make sense of this otherwise senseless allegation by coming up with likely reasons why the Coach would hold a grudge against Usman or any other player?
5) Is there any of the foreign-based players on the 2013 team who did not deserve to play and should have been replaced by any home-based player?
None, absolutely not a single one. Be careful when comparing a player who is playing at a higher professional level of competitiveness such as Spain or Italy, with one playing at a lower professional level. Players sometimes look unusually good when playing in a less competitive environment. Note that the differences in professional location on the world basketball map is usually due to logical reasons such as abilities and skills; and not only due to opportunity or luck. The basketball world is now truly a global village; if you are good enough to play on a bigger stage, the talent scouts and agents will find you and bring you to that bigger stage.
6) Should Jamal Olasewere have been replaced by a home-based player?
Judge for yourself.
– Averaged 19 points, 8 rebounds in NCAA
– NEC Tournament MVP 2011
– First team All-NEC 2012,2013
– NEC player of the year 2013
– AP Honorable Mention All-American 2013
– Pro-player with Vanoli Cremona (Italy) 2013
7) Should Stan Okoye have been replaced by a home-based player?
Again, judge for yourself.
– Big South All-Freshman team 2010
– All-Big South First Team 2013
– Averaged more than 20 points per game in the NCAA
– AP Honorable mention All-American 2013
– Big South Conference Player of the Year 2013
– Pro player with Ikaros (Greece) 2013
8) Of the 12 players Nigeria registered for Afrobasket 2013, how many were injured or could not play?
Out of twelve players three were completely knocked out while two barely managed. One player (Chamberlin Oguchi was suspended by FIBA), two (Richard Oruche and Andy Ogide) were injured by the second day, while Stan Okoye was limited by a muscle injury and Jamal Olasewere was limited by a foot injury, although both continued to soldier on due to our desperate manpower situation.
9) Should Olumide Oyedeji have been on that team or is he too old and was selected because of his relationship with the NBBF or coach?
Olumide, just like everyone else on the 2013 team earned his spot on the roster and was not given any concessions as an NBBF Board Member. Every team needs veterans who are willing to accept their role of helping to stabilize the team with their experience whenever needed. That is standard roster-building practice all over the world, as a thorough examination of professional teams even up to NBA level will reveal. Also, there were many players older than Olumide at Afrobasket 2013, and some of these were even on the Angolan team that eventually won the championship. Besides his performance on the team did not reflect any deficiency due to age and he is still capable of meritorious service to the National team.
10) Will Nigeria be awarded a Wild Card for the 2014 World Cup?
There are 4 wild cards available and Nigeria is a strong contender for one of them, although the final decision is in the hands of FIBA. There is however a lot that all stakeholders must do in promoting a successful bid for the wild card.
Ayodele Bakare, popularly known as Waka, is the national team coach for Nigeria’s male basketball team, D’Tigers. He led the team to its first ever Olympic berth in the London 2012 Olympics. He has successfully coached Ebun Comets, a male basketball team in the Nigerian premier league, and recently led the team to the Afrobasket tourney in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire were it fell short of qualifying for the 2014 basketball World Cup.