BY JOE APU
Two NBA Nigerians plying their trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli are out of D’ Tigers squad for the Rio 2016 Olympic basketball event.
The duo backed out over issurance issues.
Forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who had been with the Nigerian basketball team for the training camp was not included in the 12-man squad by head coach Will Voigt due to an unresolved insurance issue with the Nigerian Basketball Federation.
Aminu’s Portland teammate, Festus Ezeli was also absent from the Nigerian team for the same reason. The NBBF currently did not provide suitable insurance for their NBA contracts should either player fall to injury while representing their country in Rio. Aminu previously competed in the 2012 Olympics with his older brother, Alade Aminu.
However, three new players outside of the victorious D’ Tigers team that won the AfroBasket for Nigeria for the first time had made the final cut for Nigeria’s second Olympic Games appearance in Rio.
According to the list sent to FIBA ahead of the Olympics, the three players that did not feature last year but are now on the roster are Josh Akognon, Ebi Ere and Ekene Ibekwe.
Chamberlain ‘Champ’ Oguchi, the most valuable player of last year’s tournament and a 2012 Olympian made the cut. Nigeria will play in Group B against Argentina, hosts Brazil, Croatia, Lithuania and Spain. A top four finish would be needed for Nigeria to advance to the Quarter-Finals.
They will be hoping to recapture the magic that saw them capture the AfroBasket 2015 crown in Tunisia. It was their first title in the competition.
At the 2012 Olympics, the Nigerians took on fellow Africans Tunisia in the first game and won but then fell in their next four outings.
The full squad is made up of Josh Akognon, Alade Aminu, Ike Diogu Ebi Ere, Michael Gbinije and Ekene Ibekwe. Others are Shane Lawal, Andy Ogide, Chamberlain Oguchi, Stan Okoye, Ben Uzoh and Michael Umeh.