By Joe Apu
Nigeria’s men and women national basketball teams have been tipped for a podium finish at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games billed to commence in July.
Professor Patrick Omo-Osagie gave this assertion during the week in a chat from his base in Texas, USA with Sunday SunSports while reviewing the recently concluded AfroBasket 2021 qualifiers in which Nigeria finished tops of Group D ahead of Soth Sudan, Mali and Rwanda.
Omo-Osagie, a former assistant national team coach noted that the sustained progress of the teams calls for joy pointing out that Nigeria’s talent base is one that is full of encouragement.
While commending the efforts of the coaching crew and the players for maintaining Nigeria’s unbeaten run and finishing the qualifiers with a 3-0 record, Omo-Osagie points out that Nigeria’s dominance of African basketball has come to stay.
“The men’s team has plenty of options from our talent pool. In fact, I pity the coaching crew on how they will make the final selection of 12 players for Olympic Games. Given the capabilities of the players we have competing in the NBA and in Europe, I foresee a podium finish for them.
In addition, there will be a greater competition against Team USA for the gold medal because our players are gradually getting to their standard and would compete effectively. That’s why it would be difficult for players from the domestic league to make the senior national team. The average Nigerian US based player though may have started late but they compete with the best week in week out but same cannot be said of the players in the domestic league.”
He warned that the coaches must set aside sentiments in making their final selection and ease out those that may not make the team in good time for better concentration on the top players noting that what changed from the era of coach Ayo Bakare was the coaching that Will Voigt brought and followed by Coach Alex Nwora.
“The case is no different for the women. The only teams they have not conquered are USA and France because these countries also parade black players that have the same physical attributes like us but we can see they play robust basketball and are quick.
“Twice, they have proved that they are the team of the moment by winning the AfroBasket Women titles back to back in Mali and Senegal. The Nigerians are gradually reducing the losing margins against Team USA which is a sign that they are improving by the day.”