Nigeria’s men national basketball team, D’Tigers, will begin the quest to qualify for the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket tournament on Thursday when they square up against South Sudan at the Kigali Arena.
The team is led by the new coach, Mike Brown, who travelled ahead of the invited players to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on Monday.
Nigeria is in Group D with South Sudan [they replaced Algeria], Mali and hosts Rwanda. Brown released the 20-player list in the first week of November with the players directed to fly straight to Kigali. Ike Diogu is back alongside Mike Gbinije while Festus Ezeli has been called up for the first time.
In a report on Twitter, NBBF President, Musa Kida, said the federation had helped the team prepare to ensure they qualify seamlessly. “We are not unaware of the huge task before us to ensure another seamless qualification for Afrobasket.
“We know that millions of Nigerians are expecting us to qualify without drama, and that is exactly what we are working towards,” Mr Kida said.
A basketball enthusiast and commentator, Femi Adefeso, told newsmen he expects a bit of struggle from this D’Tigers because “it is a new coach and a different team [to the one that went to the 2019 World Cup].”
But he expects the return of Diogu to give the needed direction and leadership to the team. “Diogu has always been our Mr. consistent and this could be his last national assignment, which means he will be doubly motivated to help the team get the desired result.”
In the case of South Sudan, Adefeso said the Nigerian team must be “careful”. They are said to possess the tallest population in Africa and could feature one son of the late Manute Bol in Riak Bol.
Adefeso added they should expect the Malians to be a stiff opposition while the home team, despite an empty stadium, will have been buoyed by President Paul Kagame’s interest in the team.
The FIBA website states that “Twenty teams will participate in the second round of qualification for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021. The top three teams from each group will automatically qualify to the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 to be held in Rwanda.”