The recently concluded FIBA U16 basketball championship in Praia, Cape Verde has shown that with good preparation, Nigeria can achieve massive results at the international stage of any sporting competition, with the boys finishing third behind Egypt and Mali.
The team of 11 boys who represented Nigeria at the competition had just two days of light training at the indoor sports hall of the national stadium Lagos, with assistant coach, Tony Nelson, but they only got to meet their head coach Fubara Onyanabo at the Murtala International Airport on Thursday, the day of the departure for the competition with their first game billed for Friday by 9:30 pm Nigerian time which is two hours ahead of Cape Verde’s local time.
Things sure didn’t go well for the Nigerian boys who had close to zero training session and were about to face then three time champions Egypt in their first game of the competition.
It seemed they were destined to lose the game and they did but not without a fight.
Prior to the game, three of the boys were also medically screened out of the championship leaving the coach with an eight man rotation throughout the competition.
Aside not having the best of preparation, the team was not prepared for the long trip they encountered. None of the boys had previously had an international travelling experience and their first time was a flight from Lagos to Nairobi which took over five hours, another connecting flight to Dakar that took about seven hours with a stopover at Bamako included.
Another four-hour wait in Dakar before the team were finally airlifted to Praia on a flight that lasted about an hour 15 minutes arriving Cape Verde some minutes past 10 pm local time, and past 12am Nigerian time on the day of their opening game against Egypt.
Some few hours of sleep, a breakfast the boys were unused to and about 20 minutes late for their first practice with the head coach almost spelled doom for them.
Bormini Dennis, the team’s point guard had been selected to be the team captain resuming his position with the shortest notice as they face an uphill task against an Egyptian team that had been off and on in camp for over seven months as officials later gathered.
It was a shock when the team took a 21-13 lead heading out of the first quarter and many thought it the boys were going to pull a famous win but fatigue, inexperience and lack of proper understanding robbed them of what would have been a win enabled by the famous “Nigerian spirit” but the game ended 86-77 in favour of the North Africans.
The team after the loss must have signed a pack, as they bounced back smoking winning their next three group games starting with a 64- 39 demolition of hosts Cape Verde also trashing former champions Angola 90-57.