12 August 2013

Nigeria: D'Tigress Seek Bonding for Maputo Glory

Nigeria's women national team handlers are working on bonding the team in order to re-enact the Maputo feat where the team won its first gold in women's basketball. Maputo, the Mozambican capital was where their glory days started a decade ago following a 69-63 continental championship win over hosts Mozambique. Nigeria clinched the second African title in the 2005 Afrobasket for Women at home in Abuja. And this time they return to Maputo for glory in a tournament that brings together 12 teams from the continent.
Top African team in women's basketball like Mali, Senegal, Angola, Nigeria and Mozambique will be in action. Nigeria is rated 4th on the continent. Already, the Nigeria Basketball Federation has released programmes for the team. Nigeria has to work very hard considering that women's basketball has dropped over the years. Latest ranking show the team nose-dived six places due to disappointing showing in recent times.
According to the team's head coach, Scott Nnaji, the team can do better than the fourth-place finish earned two years ago. "To play well, qualify for the second round of the tournament and then play their best basketball to qualify for world championship", he told FIBA.com.
The big test will be to scale the hurdle in Group B against Angola, Mali, Kenya, Cape Verde and Cameroon. But Nnaji believes Nigeria has an advantage of not going as favourites a position opponents may take for granted at their own peril. "Opponents will be looking at us differently." He said. The coach has pre-selected foreign-based Helen Ogunjimi, Rosalyn Fatima Gold-Onwude, Sarah Imovbioh, Chinyere Ibekwe, Tolu Omotola, Sarah Ogoke, Rashidat Sadiq, Ndidi Madu, Sandra Udobi and Kikelomo Rafiu while a group of six home-based players is expected to join the team that will gather for a training camp from 27 August to 3 September in Abuja. "We want to blend foreign-based and home players together.
Everyone deserves a chance," Nnaji said. Nnaji is not new to challenges like this. He coached the team that won the country its second gold medal in 2005, and served as an assistant coach to Sam Vincent at the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil. Nnaji was also a member of the coaching staff at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Unlike their African rivals, Nigeria's women's national team lost ground and are currently fourth highest ranked African team (26) behind Mali (17), Senegal (20) and Angola (23). But says, "We are optimistic with our team. We want to put together a more vibrant team. I want to see these young players playing hard and make a difference," he said.
The team will have a combined training camp in Abuja from August 12-25, play friendly games between August 27 and 31 in Lagos before going for an international training tournament of Africa and Europe between September 3 and 17. The team will arrive Maputo, venue of the Afrobasket for women on September 18 for the tournament slated for 20-29.

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