As the 2013 edition of women’s Afrobasket draws nearer in Mozambique, captain of Nigeria’s female team, D’tigress, Rashidat Odun Sadiq, says the team can win the title this summer.
Nigeria will be battling for their third African title when the slamming and dunking championship dunks off later in the year, after D’Tigress were champions in 2003 and 2005.
But the country’s recent performances have caused more concern than optimism, as Nigeria dropped six places in the last FIBA Women’s Ranking.
The D’Tigress are ranked 26th, behind Mali (17th), Senegal (20th) and Angola (23rd).
Nigeria finished fourth at the 2011 Afrobasket, with a 4-4 record after a 71-62 defeat to hosts Mali in the Bronze Medal Game.
According to Sadiq, Nigeria’s leading scorer in the 2011 tournament with 12.5 points per game, “with enough preparation ahead of the championship in Mozambique, Nigeria can win the title.”
“Other African countries have improved and capitalised on the things we and other teams didn’t do right. I believe everyone is working hard and getting better,” she told FIBA.com.
“I believe we have the athletes that can make a difference and win the African championship again,” Sadiq said.
“We just must have good preparation towards all championships. Our team have some of the best athletes from Africa because half of the players live in the United States, and have played at some of the best colleges in the US. Many of the players play overseas so we have players with college and professional experiences, which give us an edge in basketball,” the 31-year-old explained.
Despite their potential and a talended squad, Nigeria have not been on the podium since winning the Afrobasket in 2005.
As the Nigerian Basketball Federation, NBBF, prepare to restructure the country’s basketball programmes and announce head coaches of various national teams, next year´s Afrobasket, a qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women, has become one of their targets.
The winners and runner-ups of that tournament will qualify for the world championship holding in Turkey.
Speaking on the prospect of representing Nigeria once again at the biggest women’s international event, Sadiq said: “It’s always an honour to represent my country and for as long as God permits me, I will always represent D’Tigress with all my talent and strength to the Glory of God.”
On Nigeria’s U-19 women´s team withdrawal from the FIBA World Championship held in Chile last year, Sadiq, who is currently keeping fit in Oklahoma City in the US, said: “Nigerian youths are working hard and getting better through summer camps like the Rashidat Sadiq basketball foundation camp every year.”
“The purpose of this camp is to encourage the young athletes to stay out of trouble, stay in school, and to create an opportunity for them to further their education on athlete scholarship abroad.”