The Nigerian D’Tigers basketball team’s stunning victories this past week in friendly matches with the United States and Argentina has pushed it further into the Olympic spotlight.
D’Tigers beat the United States NBA stars 90-87 on Saturday in Las Vegas, making international basketball history as the first African country to beat the U.S.
On Monday, the team beat the world’s fourth-ranked team, Argentina, by a score of 94-71.
But the Nigerian team was later slammed by Australia 108-69. It was the team’s first loss in the tune-up games for the Olympics.
Despite that, Nigerian basketball fan David Moge says he’s optimistic about the team’s performance at the Games in Tokyo.
“I see them having a chance to do great things in the Olympics because they have a coach who has a lot of NBA experience and background, so he’ll be bringing a lot of structures in terms of offensive plays, defensive plays and keep the team going,” Moge said.
Nigeria is one of 12 men’s teams — and the only African team — that qualified for the Olympic tournament.
The team is studded with former NBA stars, including Gabe Vincent, Chikezie Okpala and Precious Achiuwa of the Miami Heat. The squad is led by award-winning NBA coach Mike Brown.
The secretary of the Abuja basketball club, Anthony Ekpenkhio, says the diaspora experience is an advantage for the Nigerian team.
“We have players that will match them pound for pound, height for height,” Ekpenkhio said. “I think it’s great that we took our time to select some of our tallest and best players.”
Nigeria’s D’Tigers must do well in Group B competition against Australia, Germany and Italy to reach the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, a Nigerian Olympic delegate was hospitalized Thursday in Tokyo after testing positive for COVID-19.
The coronavirus has infected athletes and delegates, and experts warn that the situation could worsen.
Source: Voice of America