Afrobasket 2013: D’Tigers Maintain Strong Position18 août 2013
In a few days time, the Nigerian Senior Men Basketball team will begin another chapter in their quest for stardom as they embark on what will be one of the toughest tests on the continental stage. Some might disagree that the AfroBasket tournament in Ivory Coast will pose too much of a difficult obstacle for D’Tigers to handle due to the presence of some standout foreign-based athletes, however , history will tell us that D’Tigers will need to be both mentally and physically prepared to face the battles that lie ahead. Ever since Nigeria’s’ inception in Africa’s biggest basketball stage in 1972, no Nigerian team has ever won the competition and actually only claimed their first medal (Bronze) in the 1995 edition held in Algeria. Since then, the various Nigerian teams that have participated in the tournament have done very well to finish among the top nations in subsequent editions, however, the lack of continuity in Coaching and player personnel, and lack of adequate preparation has proved the downfall of the team when faced with the final hurdle, D’Tigers have finished in the top three six times in the last nine editions of the AfroBasket.
The turn of the decade has now seen this era of Nigerian basketball look towards a positive direction, the team is coming through a strong basketball campaign where they raised more than a few eyebrows on the International stage, and the good news is that they have kept the core of the athletes and Coaching Staff from the recent experience. Ayo Bakare who began this journey with a Bronze medal at the last AfroBasket competition returns once again to spear head the team, and with him, he brought back six players from the last Olympic tournament. The signs look very promising from a consistency point of view, something that was lacking in previous tournaments. In regards to preparation, the Nigerian Basketball Federation have to be commended for the efforts they have put in behind the scenes to gear the team towards a successful campaign, NBBF president Tijani Umar spoke about the road map for the Nigerian team in an interview with TNB earlier this year, and he has so far ensured that the team’s preparation remained at a high level coming into the tournament. From the indoor sports hall in Abuja, Nigeria in May, the team has endured a grueling training regime, which has seen them travel around the world in a bid to find the right athletes to prosecute the task at hand, and despite the changes of athletes in camp, it comes as a morale booster that preparation have continued so far undeterred.
As stated earlier, this year’s team will comprise of six core players from the last campaign in addition to six new players who are looking to establish themselves on the International scene, and as much as every Nigerian would want the Gold for the first time in their history, reality remains that there are other teams in the tournament who pose a strong threat to D’Tigers Championship aspirations. As a long term goal, the main focus of the team should be to finish in the top three, ensuring qualification to the World Championships in Spain in 2014, and maintaining its position among some of the best teams in the world. The likes of Angola, Tunisia, Cameroon and more will prove a difficult hurdle to get past this year, however, where the team have lacked in preparation and consistency in the past, efforts have been put in place to ensure that the situation is in a better shape, and as much as it is difficult to predict if Nigeria will win the tournament this year, what is certain is that the team has put itself in the best position to go all the way, both mentally and physically.
Al Farouq Aminu