After several attempts to win the African basketball Nations Cup, popularly called Afrobasket, the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF, is looking forward to the new year with high expectations to win the next edition of the tournament slated for Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
This year’s Afrobasket in Cote d’Ivoire would mark the 27th edition after the 26th edition was held in Antananarivo, Madagascar last year. And for over five decades that Nigeria male team, D’Tigers have been participating at the champions, they have not gone past the runners up at the championship.
For the record, D’Tigers finished second in the past three editions. Firstly, it was when the biennial championship was held in Dakar, Senegal in 1997, where Nigeria came second behind hosts, Senegal. Also in 1999 when Angola hosted the slamming and dunking sport, D’Tigers could not improve upon their runners up position they won in the previous edition, as they once again finished second behind Angola.
In 2003, when Egypt hosted African nations, Nigeria lost in the final to Angola for the second consecutively edition by 85-65 points.
Although, Nigeria did win three other bronze medals when the championship was held in Algiers, Algeria in 1995, 2006 and at last year’s edition in Antananarivo, Madagascar, the trophy has been eluding D’Tigers since 1965, when the first edition of the championship was held.
Commenting on the chances of D’Tigers during the new year, former national team coach, Agboola Pinheiro, who is a member of the Technical Committee of NBBF, said the basketball governing body is optimistic that D’Tigers would do the country proud in Abidjan come August-September when the championship gets underway.
According to coach Pinheiro, the time is rife for Nigeria to prove that the array of experienced players that the country is blessed with is not in vain.
He said: “ Without a doubt, our priority this year is for Nigeria to win the 2013 Afrobasket in Cote d’voire. And, I believe with the players that qualified us for the 2012 Olympics in London that we can compete favourably against other top teams in Africa, and with luck, can win the championship.”
Head of Technical, Lagos State Basketball Association, LSBA, Gbade Olatona said Nigeria can win the title in Abidjan if D’Tigers could improve upon the performance they put up at the 2012 London Olympics.
Olatona also said that with experienced coach Ayo Bakare in charge of the team, that Nigeria would be among the favourites for the title.
The various talent-hunt camps organised annually by former national team players for youngsters in the land are other major events that pundits are looking forward to during the new year.
The likes of Olumide Oyedeji camp, Rashidat Sodiq camp, Top 50 camp and the Hoops 4 Hope camp are events that have helped the country to unearth hidden talents across the country.
On the international scene, the main attraction in 2013 would be the qualifiers for FIBA World Championship that will hold in Spain later in the year. The tourney has been renamed FIBA Basketball World to reflect the prestige that FIBA tournament has, and allows for it to be recognised as one of the biggest global sporting events, along with the FIFA World Cup, the Rugby World Cup and the Cricket World Cup.