No less than 14 players will make the trip to Belgrade, Serbia as Nigeria opens camp at the Crowne Hotel with D’Tigress head coach, Otis Hughley and his assistants’ coaches Peter Ahmedu and Shola Ogunade Shomala ready to get the girls in shape.
The last phase of the Women Olympics Qualification Tournament is billed for Belgrade between 6 – 9 of February, 2020 and Nigeria is leaving nothing to chance to ensure that she picks one of the three automatic tickets to Tokyo.
Nigeria competed at the 2004 Summer Olympics in basketball, one of ten events their national teams qualified for. The Nigerian women’s basketball team was one of the twelve teams that competed in the event. They earned their berth through a zone qualifying tournament and played in Group A along with Australia, Brazil, Greece, Japan, and Russia.
Today, we take a look at the 14 players that will battle it out for the final 12-man roster.
Full list of players
Adaora Elonu – (Uni Girona, Spain) is a Nigerian-American basketball forward for the Nigeria’s national team. Elonu played college basketball for Texas A&M, with whom she won the 2011 NCAA Championship.
She has played with the Nigerian’s national team with whom she achieved the bronze medal in the AfroBasket Women 2015, being elected as part of the tournament’s All-Star Five. She was part of the Nigerian side that won gold at the Afrobasket 2017 championship in Mali averaging the team’s high 3.9 assists per game.
Elonu emerged captain of the Nigeria Women’s National Basketball Team on 10 August while the team camped in Atlanta in preparation for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup. She helped Nigeria retain the AfroBasket Women title in 2019 and played a key role in helping her country gain a ticket in Mozambique at the Pre-Women Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Ifunanya Ibekwe – (Virtus Eirene, Italy) – The Nigerian international power forward had played at the Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA).
Ibekwe helped them to make it to both league and Cup finals after they ended regular season as second best team. A very good season in her career as she was awarded Eurobasket.com All-Spanish LFB Forward of the Year, selected to 1st Team and selected to All-Imports Team.
Ibekwe also played 10 games in Eurocup and in 2011 Ibekwe was drafted by Seattle Storm (WNBA) in second round (24th overall).
Ibekwe is a very experienced player. She has quite traveled the world as her pro career brought her to five different countries on three different continents (Europe, Australia and of course North America). Ibekwe has played previously professionally in Australia (Flames and SEQ), Belgium, France (Hainaut), WNBA (Phoenix Mercury and Atlanta Dream) and Spain (Jopisa Burgos and GDKO Bizkaia).
Promise Amukamara – (Charnay Basket Bourgogne SUD, France) Participated at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup where Nigeria finished as the best African side ever at the World Cup.
Promise Amukamara´s career began in Apollo High School and she averaged 22 points per game and was named MVP multiple times.
In August 2019, Promise Amukmara won the Gold Medal with Nigeria in the African Championship and she averaged 8.4 points, 3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 22 minutes per game.
Sarah Imovbioh – (Basket Namur Capitale, Belgium) Has participated at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. She also participated at 2019 the Women’s Afrobasket where she won gold with the Nigerian female basketball team.
In August 2019, she agreed terms with BC Belfius Namur Capitale. She has played for the last two seasons at PEAC-Pecs in Hungarian A Division. In 26 games she was the best scorer with impressive 19.0ppg and averaged 10.6rpg (leader) last season.
She has been also a member of Nigerian international program for some years. Imovbioh has regularly played for Nigerian senior team since 013 and previously for U19 National Team back in 2011.
Elo Edeferioka – (CB Vigo Spain) Has participated at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. With only 17 seconds before Elo Edema Edeferioka made the most important move of the game – an offensive rebound that earned her two free throws which she gladly converted to send Nigeria to the next round of the World Cup where the country recorded a feat by reaching the quarter-finals.
Sarah Ogoke (Celta de Vigo, Spain) features for Celta de Vigo and Nigeria but played on loan for Mozambique Club Ferrviario De Maputo at 2019 FIBA Africa Champion Cup (Women).
She participated at the 2017 Women’s Afrobasket and 2019 Women’s Afrobasket. Ogoke was also a member of Nigeria’s female basketball team, D’tigress, at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
Pallas Kunaiyi Akpannah – (Meccanica Nova, Italy) began playing basketball at 14 and has had the men’s basketball coach at Northwestern naming drills after her. She’s a quiet leader who does stand-up comedy – an instinctive athlete who wants to outwork everyone.
Her journey might not be typical, but Wildcat senior post Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah always seems to be in the right places at the right times.
Her former teammate, Lindsey Pulliam said Kunaiyi-Akpanah dominates under the basket because she is singularly-focused.
She was playing at an outdoor court when Hope 4 Girls Africa founder Mobolaji Akiode discovered her and is a key member of the Nigerian team that won the 2019 AfroBasket Women winning squad
Ezinne Kalu – (Landerneau Bretagne Basket, France) Played for the Nigerian’s national team at the 2016 FIBA women’s Olympic qualifying tournament. She participated at the 2017 Women’s Afrobasket. She averaged 12 pts, 3 assists per game. The team won the tournament.
Kalu participated in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain for the Nigerian national basketball team. She averaged 10.6 points, 3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game during the tournament.
Kalu participated in the 2019 Women’s Afrobasket where she was named Most Valuable player of the tournament. She average 13 points and 3 assists during the tournament.
Evelyn Akhator – (Flammes Carolo, France) Was drafted by the Dallas Wings of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) as the 3rd overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft. She plays for the Spanish side CB Avenida.
On 13 February 2019, Akhator returned to the WNBA by signing for the Chicago Sky on a training camp deal.
She made her first appearance for the team during the 2017 FIBA AfroBasket tournament in Mali. Evelyn averaged 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during the tournament and also made the top 5 players list. She was part of the Nigerian national basketball team at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain where she averaged 12.6 points, 9 rebounds and 1.4 assists during the tournament and also in winning team that saw Nigeria retain the AfroBasket 2019 trophy.
Aisha Balarabe – (KB Bashkimi, Kosovo) Is the most experienced Nigerian basketball player on the D’ Tigress squad presently. She first appeared for Nigeria at the AfroBasket 2003 with the likes of Mactabene Amachree, Mfom Udoka, Shola Ogunade to mention a few.
She has remained a key factor for Nigeria winning four senior African titles (Mozambique 2003, Nigeria 2005, Mali 2017 and Senegal 2019)
She was in the Nigerian team that played in the country’s first appearance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece and also have to her credit a World Championship appearance and as well as a World Cup 2018 appearance held in Spain.
Victoria Macaulay (Galatasaray, Turkey) Is an Nigeria/American professional basketball player for Galatasaray. In 2015 she played for Chicago Sky in the Women’s National Basketball Association.
Elizabeth Balogun – (Louisville University, USA) The former Georgia Tech guard who transferred to Louisville in April 2019 is finally going to make her debut for Nigeria.
She is daughter to Police Bombers coach, Mark Balogun who has played a great role in ensuring that his daughter is released to play for her fatherland. Named the ACC rookie of the year, Guard Elizabeth Balogun transferred to Louisville.
Musa Murjanantu – (Air Warriors, Nigeria) Turned out the revelation at the 2019 Zenith Women’s League. She led Air Warriors to win their first title getting crowned the 2019 Zenith Bank Women Basketball League Champions after a hard earned victory over MFM Queens 55-53 points in the final.
She also picked the Most Valuable Player of the League for the 2019 Zenith Bank Women Basketball League season.
Murjanatu was listed alongside Ifunanya Okoro (First Bank), Gbihi Cynthia (Dolphins), Josette Anaswem (Customs) and Ifunanya Ijeh (MFM Queens) as the Tournament’s Top 5.