The Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) has released an 18-man provisional list for the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers in Bamako, Mali, scheduled to hold between Feb. 23 and feb. 25.
Five players, from the 2017 AfroBasket silver-winning team, top the list, including three home-based players and two from the 2015 Afrobasket winning squad.
Agua Caliente Clippers, USA player Ikechukwu Ireogbu, who was a revelation at the 2017 tournament where the D’Tigers won a silver medal, have been invited.
They were invited alongside Ike Nwamu (Sioux Falls Skyforce, USA), Bryant Mbamalu (CD Vildivia, Chile), Ike Diogu (Schun Blue Whales, China) and Ayodeji Akindele (Belediye Spor, Turkey).
Eli Abraham (Kano Pillars, Nigeria), Abdulwahab Yakubu (Gombe Bulls, Nigeria) and Musa Usman Mohammed (Mark Mentors, Nigeria) have also made the team list, ahead of their Group B games against host-Mali, Rwanda and Uganda.
The duo of Ben Uzoh (unattached) and Michael Gbinijie (Santa Cruz Warriors, USA) will be making their return to the national team fold after missing out of the 2017 nations cup co-hosted by Senegal and Tunisia.
Other players invited by the Coach Alex Nwora include Ofoegbu Chima (unattached), Ojo Michael Adetokunbo (Worcester Wolves, UK), Mike Efevbeha (Sagesse, Lebanon), Obi Emenago (Rouen Basket, France), Omogbo Emmanuel (VL Pesaro, Italy), Nwogbo Lotana Afam (Sendai 89ers, Japan), Talib Zanna (Ironi Nes-Ziona, Israel) and Christopher Obekpa Ewaoche (Tranzaspor, Turkey).
According to arrangements already put in place by the NBBF, foreign-based players are to report to Bamako, Mali on the 19th to be joined by the players and officials from Nigeria.
Explaining the reason behind the arrangement, NBBF President, Engr. Musa Kida said “due to the FIBA calendar which opens on Feb. 19, just about four days to the D’Tigers first game, all players, coming to Nigeria before travelling to Mali, would be a mission impossible.
“We are expecting players from Europe, North America, South America and Asia.
“So, we thought it wise that instead of going through the travelling stress ahead of the qualifiers, they should just report straight to Bamako,” Kida said.
Speaking on Nigeria’s group, the head coach is optimistic about his team’s chances of qualifying from the group to the next round, where the women team in 2017 won their Afrobasket title.
“Active players in their clubs who are available have been invited to represent Nigeria. We have a very formidable team that I believe will sail through.”
Nwora, who said their job in Mali is to win complained that the new FIBA World Cup Qualifying competition format has come with some setbacks especially during the February window where countries are finding it tough to get all their key players with leagues across the world already in full swing.
By Oni Afolabi, Lagos