By Joe Apu
Reigning AfroBasket champion, Nigeria will today begin her campaign to defend the title won in Tunisia in 2015 as D’ Tigers confront Cote d’ Ivoire in what has been described as the team’s major test since preparations began.
Coach Alex Nwora has just team captain Ike Diogu from the 2015 winning squad for this battle but he is convinced that his mix of experience and youth will prove a worthy risk as his boys file out against the Ivoriens who finished fourth place in 2013 as host and 12th place in Tunisia.
Obviously, the Ivoirians want to erase the results of 2015 regarded as their worst result ever in the history of the competition but they seem a lot more confident, and the return of Mohamed Kone and the addition of Souleyman Diabate represent a morale booster for the ‘Elephants’.
The Ivoirens are without Ismael Ndiaye, Mohamed Lamizana, Pape Phillipe Amagou, and Guy Edi but can bank on Souleyman Diabate seen as a game-changer.
Nigeria on the other hand will attempt to maintain her head-to-head dominance over Cote d’ Ivoire dating back to 2005: 6-1.
Two years ago, Nigeria upset then-defending champion Angola to win her first-ever African title. It would be noted that the new NBBF board led by Musa Kida brought in a new coaching team that is set to give a good account of themselves with arguably the most talented front court, which is filled by NBA player Daniel Ochefu of the Washington Wizards as well as Deji Akindele and Akin Akingbala.