24th June, 2013
A member of the Nigerian team to the 2012 London Olympics, Ejike Ugboaja has predicted a tough duel for the D’Tigers at the 27th edition of Afrobasket holding in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from 20 – 31 August.
The Nigerian team have been drawn in Group D against long time rivals Cameroon, Congo and Mali.
Speaking with P.M.NEWS Sports in Lagos on Sunday, Ugboaja, who played for Utena Juventus club in the just concluded Lithuanian league, believes the D’Tigers, who finished 3rd in the last edition won by Tunisia, would have to work harder in Abidjan to finish on the podium this time around.
“I cannot tell you how far the Nigerian team would progress in Abidjan but it is going to be tough for the team. With most of the players in the team now entirely different from those that campaigned at the Olympics, I can assure you they will struggle against Tunisia and Angola,” Ugboaja stated.
Commenting on why he is not part of the D’Tigers’ team currently in the USA preparing for the 2013 Afrobasket, the 2006 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers said: “I have decided to excuse myself from the team because the team is not run on merit.
“Coach Ayo Bakare does not field players on merit but on sentiments. If you are not in his good book he will not play you. Not because you are not good enough to be in the team but because of personal issues. That almost cost us qualification for the 2012 London Olympics only to the quick intervention of the Nigeria Basketball Fedreation members in the camp with us in Venezuela.”
In his reaction to the lack of home based player in the D’Tigers’ camp in the US, the former Union Bank of Lagos player said: ‘It is a shame that no single player from the home league is given an opportunity to be part of the camping going on in the USA. It does not augur well for a national team head coach that owns a team in the home league not to invite a single player to be part of the team. How long are we going to depend on players that were born abroad and never played in our domestic league? I used to play in this country and I know the stuffs we are made of. We have enough quality players in this country that if given a chance would make the D’Tigers’ team. But it is a shame that coach Bakare always believes it only when you play abroad that you are good enough for the national team.”
As part of the preparation for the Afrobasket, the D’Tigers will compete in the Stankovic Cup in Guangzhou, China from 6-10 July.