With fairplay, Nigeria will win basketball medals in Tokyo, says Udezue
• Australia thrashes D’Tigers 108-69
• Teams get N100m banks’ support
Despite losing heavily to Australia in an exhibition match in the United States yesterday, D’Tigers and their women counterparts, D’Tigress, have been tipped to win medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games if given a level-playing field.
Former international star, Ugo Udezue, described the national teams as among the strongest sides going into the Games, adding that only international conspiracy could stop the country’s teams from getting to the podium in Tokyo.
Just a day after dealing with U.S. in convincing fashion, understrength Australian team made easy work of a hyped Nigeria outfit in a thumping 108-69 win.
The veteran savvy of Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova and Aron Baynes was replaced by a young, athletic starting five as the Boomers chose to sit their stars, keeping their cards close to their chest against Nigeria, who will be in their group at the Tokyo Olympics.
Nigeria, filled with NBA talent, had rattled off impressive wins against the United States and Argentina, leaning on their athleticism and shooting, but were outplayed yesterday by an Australian group, with an average age of 25, that gave head coach, Brian Goorjian, a glimpse into the future.
Nigeria had proved too much for Team U.S. and Argentina, running and gunning, and importantly, winning the battle on the boards.
Mike Brown’s team outrebounded the United States by 12 and the Argentinians by 18. Against Australia, they were bested on the glass, and every other facet of the game.
Nigeria had 90 points against the United States. They scored 94 against Argentina. The Australians, who tallied 10 steals and four blocks, held them to just 69 in a display that sent a statement to its rivals.
But despite the blowout, Udezue said all indices still point to a Nigerian success in Tokyo, adding that the players and coaches are primed for great things.
Speaking after taking a group of journalists on a tour of the facility, where Team Nigeria’s kits for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are produced in Lagos, the former basketball star, said, “I have always predicted a break. This is the first time we will have a world calibre coach; and if you look at the teams, the oldest player is about 30… they are fresh young and very athletic.
“So, I will be surprised if they don’t win medals in Tokyo. I also think there will be many forces working against them from the international community because Nigeria is seen a nursery for these big nations. Many of these international programmes are not designed to see Africa on top. Africa is beneficial to many people when the continent is down and they will like to lose their hold on the continent.
“I was an athlete and my experience taught me that most developed countries see Africa as a farm for talents and it will only remain a farm as long as it is down. If Africa rises, the Europeans will lose. Where will they get their talents? Look at the big countries with many championship laurels; most of their athletes are from Africa. The French football team is primarily African and they will want to remain on top by keeping Africa down.”
Udezue urged the national teams to remain focused even in face of distractions, saying they have the talents to get to a podium finish in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, three commercial banks have donated $200,000, about N100 million to jointly adopt the national men’s team, D’Tigers and the women team, D’Tigress. This is in line with the adopt initiative set up by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to help Nigerian teams and athletes prepare adequately for the Games.
In a statement yesterday, the ministry noted that Zenith, Access and Guarantee Trust (GT) banks responded in a timely fashion to the appeal by Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, for corporate organisations to adopt the national teams.
D’Tigers got $100,000, while D’Tigress also got $100,000 as support to prosecute their participation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Thanking Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who was central to the process leading to the adoption, the ministry noted the CBN governor’s earlier support to the revitalisation of the Principals Cup this year.
It also thanked the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer N. Onyeagwu, Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, and Managing Director/CEO of GT Bank, Mr. Segun Agbaje and their financial institutions for adopting the national basketball teams.
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