21 November 2012

NIGERIA : Nigeria Basketball to decide future

15. Olumide OYEDEJI (Nigeria)
Olumide OYEDEJI (Nigeria). Greece v Nigeria. 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men, Quarter-Finals. 6 July 2012
LAGOS - This past summer, Nigeria's men’s team became a hot topic of conversation following an astonishing performance at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), before they competed at the London Games.
In the coming few weeks, the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) will announce their future objectives and strategies which will affect all basketball categories in the country.
Nigeria's men’s took on Venezuela, Lithuania - on two occasions - Greece, Russia, the Dominican Republic, Tunisia, USA, Argentina and France at the OQT and the Men's Olympic Tournament.
It was an unusual but successful summer for the African team, the NBBF said, especially after they upset European giants Greece 80-79 at the OQT, a win that catapulted them to the elite 12-team field that gathered in London.
With that, the Nigerians became the first African team to secure a place at the Olympics via the OQT.
Their 156-73 defeat to the USA stained their Olympic appearance as it set a record for most points conceded by a team in the Games' history.
Three months have passed since then and the D’Tigers are looking ahead to a new era.
Ayodele Bakare, the man who guided Nigeria from Afrobasket 2011 in Antananarivo, Madagascar to Caracas, Venezuela and onto London, has written a report revealing the Olympic adventure and he recommended points that he considers crucial for the future of the game in the country.
Despite the four defeats and lone win, Nigeria’s head coach at the Games, Bakare believes that they became a world-class basketball programme.
In the meantime, he admits that, in order to hold on to a world powerhouse status, the structure and the organisation [NBBF] must be world-class too.
“This will ensure that we keep and improve on those things which helped us get to the top: world-class coaches, world-class players, world-class preparation for our teams, world-class motivation, plus world-class tournaments and tours,” Bakare wrote.
Very few know if Bakare will be reappointed to the post.
But he is adamant that Nigeria cannot sustain the current momentum of growth if they “do not have standard facilities that can host major tournaments, clinics and even our national team programs.”
“If we fail to win a ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup at the qualifying tournament [Afrobasket] next July, it will be because we failed to do what needed to be done this year October, November or December for example,” Bakare added.
Thanks to their performances over the summer, Nigeria's men moved up the FIBA Ranking to 17th, the highest world ranked position held by one of the country's national sports teams.
The London experience and way forward
Nigeria were hit by injuries in London, which some say disrupted Bakare’s team’s ability to perform at the level they did in Caracas three weeks earlier.
Tony Skinn and Ade Dagunduro got injured earlier in the tournament limiting Nigeria’s options.
Then in the most-expected game for Nigerian fans, they suffered their biggest defeat ever at the hands of the Americans.
That game, Bakare wrote, “was not winnable by any stretch of the imagination, but we had a chance against either Argentina or France.
“So, did we plan to lose by 83 points?” Bakare questioned.
“We most certainly did not,” he explained.
“We played the game determined to give our best effort. However, we could not compete with the transition and perimeter play of the Americans, especially because we had lost our efficiency at the crucial point guard position.
“Ade Dagunduro had already stopped playing before this game and Tony Skinn was a mere shadow of himself as he limped to a 1 for 7 (14%) shooting performance for the period he was able to stay in the game before also succumbing to his injuries.”
For Bakare, the 156-73 scoreline “did not reflect the heart or the abilities of the Nigerian team. It was just one of those nights when we had insurmountable manpower deficiencies, and we played our worst game while they played their best.”
The NBBF view
NBBF President Tijjani Umar recognised that “a lot has been achieved”, but “a lot more has to be done,” he told FIBA.com.
When asked what the future holds for the NBBF, he revealed that “they are working on the future of the basketball in the country,” and that they “are receiving CVs from head coaches from around the world willing to work with us.”
Whenever the decision is made, Umar says they will be working closely with players and coaching staff.
The NBBF planning involves contacting players, beforehand telling them that the NBBF has identified them to work with the team in 2013.
“We will seek to work very closely with their clubs, possibly pay them a visit and introduce a process of how players are doing in their clubs”, Umar said.
The future of Bakare has not been decided, but the NBBF recognises his hard work has “laid the foundations of this process. So, coach Bakare is part of this mix process.”
Among the candidates who've sent their CVs, some may be appointed to coach the women’s team, the NBBF said.

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