After many decades of trial without a success, Nigeria’s national basketball team, D’Tigers, finally qualified for their first appearance at an Olympic basketball event during the third quarter of the outgoing year.
Despite all the odds, the Ayo Bakare-tutored team recorded an impressive outing at the Olympic qualifying tournament held in Caracas, Venezuela from 2–8 July, 2012 and qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games held in London.
D’Tigers picked the ticket when they out-dunked Dominican Republic 88-73 in the last-chance game at the FIBA qualifying tournament.
Nigeria had shocked favourites, Greece in the quarter-finals, but were beaten in the semi-finals by Russia, who booked their own place with that win.
Lithuania had also secured a spot on Saturday with victory over the Dominican Republic, leaving Nigeria and the Dominicans to play one last contest for the third and final berth still up for grabs then.
Ike Diogu, a 10-year NBA veteran, who was with the San Antonio Spurs last season before a spell with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers, led Nigeria with 25 points and 10 rebounds at the qualifiers.
Coach Bakare, who masterminded Nigeria’s relentless defensive style and exciting brand of offence in Venezuela, said in an interview with P.MNews that his team’s qualification for the Games has been against the odds.
With an Olympic ticket in the bag, D’Tigers survived a huge late surge from Tunisia to beat the African champions 60-54 to kick off their London 2012 quest on a winning note.
Surprisingly, they could not build on the substantial victory they recorded against the African Champions, Tunisia as they went on to lose the rest of the preliminary matches they played in Group A.
The Nigerian side were defeated in their subsequent matches by France 73-79 and also lost to the USA by 156–73 score line.
In their last group match, D’Tigers lost to Lithuania 72-53 to end any hope of qualification for the quarter final.
During the third quarter of the outgoing year, the Proprietor of Dodan Warriors club of Lagos, Colonel Sam Ahmedu, Retd, had charged D’Tigers to concentrate on preparation for the 2013 Nations Cup to be hosted in Cote d’ivoire, urging them not to be carried away by their exploits at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF, boss said further that there is need for the handlers of the national team to begin preparation for the tourney in earnest if they intend to win the trophy ahead of perennial rivals Angola and Tunisia.
Still during the quarter under review, the Royal Hoopers club of Port Harcourt defeated Kano Pillars club of Kano 65-52 points to successfully defend the title they won in the 2010/2011 season.
The coach Ogoh Odaudu led Hoopers ended Dodan Warriors’ unbeaten run in the league, as they defeated the Colonel Sam Ahmedu owned team in the semi-finals to qualify for the final match against Kano Pillars.
In an interview with our reporter after the final match at the Indoor Sports Hall of National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, the Team Manager of Royal Hoopers Ifie Ozaka said that his team would win the DSTV -sponsored league for a record three times to keep the cup.
“By God’s grace, our aim is to win this trophy for the third consecutive time and retain the trophy in Port Harcourt,” said Ozaka.
Also during the third quarter, captain of D’Tigers to the London 2012 Olympic Games, Olumide Oyedeji moved his annual youths training camp, the Olumide Oyedeji Basketball Clinic to Ibadan and Osogbo.
The training clinic for young basketball talents under the ages of 13 to 18 was originally held in Lagos annually.
Speaking on the motive behind the move, Oyedeji said it was to give more kids across the country the opportunity to benefit from the camping program.
The 13th edition began at Oshogbo Township Stadium in Osun State, from 27–31 August. Kids in Lagos and its environs were camped at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos from 3-8 September, 2012.
The clinic was rounded off at the Lekan Salami Stadium in Adamasingba, Ibadan between 10-13 September, 2012.
On the international scene, the Florida State basketball coach, Leonard Hamilton had described Nigerian player Michael Ojo, one of their new recruits, as a player that would add value to their team.
While commenting on Ojo, Hamilton said: “He is the least experienced player in all the recruits we got but the furthest to go from the experience standpoint.”