26th March, 2012
Efie Ozaka is the Team Manager of Royal Hoopers Basketball Club of Port Harcourt, who won the league trophy last season. In this interview, he spoke on his team’s target for this season, and why they failed to make an appreciable impact on the continent when they represented the country at the African Clubs Championship in Morocco
As defending champions of the league, what is your target for the new season?
Our target is to retain the trophy we won for the first time last season. We also aim to represent the country at the continental clubs championship.
Your team failed to make an appreciable impact last year when you played at the clubs championship in Morocco. What went wrong?
Well, a lot of things contributed to our poor performance in Morocco. Apart from the fact that we left for the tourney a few days after the championship had commenced, there were other factors that militated against our team. But I would not want to go into the details now.
As I said earlier, one of our targets this season is to win the ticket to represent the country at the club championship once again this year. And we are poised to redeem our image on the continent and prove to our fans and Nigerians that we can also compete well in African tournament.
Your team suffered their first defeat of this season in the hands of Dodan Warriors, losing their last game by 63-75 points. Won’t the result affect your next match against Union Bank tomorrow?
I don’t see that affecting us. It was a painful defeat, but in this game and in sports generally, you lose some and win some.
We have put our acts together and corrected our mistakes. I can assure our fans that we will beat Union Bank tomorrow. As regards Dodan Warriors, when they come to Port Harcourt for the return leg, we will pay them back in their own coin.
How would you describe the level of competition among the teams in the league this season, especially in the Atlantic conference?
The level of competition among the teams have improved, not only in the Atlantic conference but also in the Savannah conference. The results of our matches could attest to this fact. I believe it is because most of the teams in both conferences have acquired quality players within and outside the country. Also, more teams are beginning to show genuine ambition to win the domestic title, unlike a few years back, when one could easily predict which two teams would compete in the final of the Super 8.
Are you saying the game has improved in the country?
Basketball is growing in Nigeria. It is not only evident in the league but also at the grassroots. More grassroots teams are springing up across the country. More training camps for both male and female players are being held in major cities across country, where future players are trained on the rudiments of the sport. These are signs of improvement in the slamming and dunking game in the country.
On the national level, do you see the senior Men’s national team, D’Tigers, qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London?
Personally, I feel we missed a golden chance of qualifying for our maiden Olympic Games when we failed to win the 2011 Afrobasket in Madagascar, a championship which Tunisia won at the expense of perennial champions, Angola.
For us to qualify for the Games through the Olympic qualifying tournament slated for Caracas, Venezuela, in July, we will need to be in our top form. This is because we will be competing against some of the best nations in the world. Honestly, we will also need luck to qualify for the Olympics in London.