The board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation has stated emphatically that the decision to appoint Alex Nwora as D’Tigers’ coach has paid off handsomely after qualifying the team for the FIBA Men’s basketball World cup in China.
Speaking through the international representative on the NBBF board, Col. Samuel Ahmedu (rtd), the decision which was greeted with scepticism by a section of the basketball family has now been justified with the results recorded since he took over.
According to Ahmedu who was part of the team’s delegation to the final qualification window in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, with Nigerians used to high profile and popular coaches, appointing Nwora was unexpected on the eve of the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket.
“Nigerians are used to high profile coaches, so when they heard of Alex Nwora, a lot of people were sceptical. I don’t blame them because apart from coaching Cape Verde and coming to Nigeria to do camps once in a while, he was relatively unknown in Nigeria.”
The NBBF said appointing Nwora was an easy decision as other coaches who were being considered and contacted did not turn up.
“Ime Udoka (Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs) and Dominic Okon (Assistant Coach, Wichita State University in the NCAA) were also invited (in various capacities) but they did not come. Alex was the one who came and took the opportunity.”
The FIBA Africa Zone 3 President said the initial believe that Nwora’s appointment was based on sentiments has now being dispelled with many embracing his style.
“As a member of the NBBF, I thank our President, Vice President and all other board members for giving him an opportunity because if he never had that opportunity, we would never have known what he can do.”
He said despite rooms for improvement as the World Cup beckons, Nigerians should appreciate the Anambra state born coach for what he has been able to achieve since taking over.
“He understands his team well and being the first coach to qualify for the world cup, being the coach whose team came first in our group and also in Africa ahead of Tunisia and Angola, I think we should appreciate what he has done.”
The FIBA World cup bound D’Tigers will know their opponents when the World Cup draw holds in Shenzhen, China on Saturday, March 16, 2019.
The team will be making their 3rd appearance after a 12 -year absence since 2006.
All eyes will be on the Alex Nwora tutored side ahead of the mundial holding between August 31st and September 15th after becoming the first country to qualify in the world for the World Cup on the back of a 9-match unbeaten streak.
Speaking ahead of the draws, Nwora said “Nothing good comes easy and I am waiting to see the teams that will be drawn against us. The 32 teams which have qualified for the World Cup have the potential to win the championship, so no country can be underrated.
“This is a historic moment for me as the head coach and as a Nigerian. Before the qualifiers started, nobody knew that we would have qualified with 4 games left to play and also as the best team in Africa. Nobody could have thought that we were going to be the first team in the world to qualify, but here we are.”
The NBBF President, Engr Musa Ahmadu Kida said “No matter who we are drawn up against, we are going to the World cup with the belief that we can surprise the world. Our girls did it in 2018 in Spain when nobody gave them the chance. This is an exciting journey that we have started to re-position Nigerian basketball. Nigerians should wait and see where we are headed.”
D’Tigers will be hopeful for a favourable draw as host- China, USA, Spain, France, Serbia, Argentina, Lithuania and Greece have all been announced by the Federation of International Basketball Associations as top seeds.
At their last World Cup appearance Nigeria won 2 of their group games before narrowly losing to Germany by 77-78 points and exiting the race for their first World Cup silverware.
Despite the 2 losses against Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal during the last window in Abidjan, Nigeria will still be leading other African teams (Tunisia, Senegal, Angola and Cote d’Ivoire) to the World Cup.