D’Tigers’ Captain, Ike Diogu, who plays for China’s Schun Blue Whales and Bryant Mbamalu of CD Vildivia, Chile are among the top 18 players in Nigeria’s provisional list for the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers in Bamako, Mali, from February 23 to 25, 2018.
Five of the players are from the 2017 AfroBasket silver-winning team; three are home-based players, while two are from the 2015 Afrobasket winning squad.
Other players in the list are Agua Caliente Clippers, USA player, Ikechukwu Ireogbu, who was a revelation at the 2017 tournament where the D’Tigers won a silver medal, Ike Nwamu (Sioux Falls Skyforce, USA), and Ayodeji Akindele (Belediye Spor, Turkey).
Home-based Eli Abraham (Kano Pillars), Abdulwahab Yakubu (Gombe Bulls) and Musa Usman Mohammed (Mark Mentors) are also in the team ahead of its Group B games against host-Mali, Rwanda, and Uganda.
The duo of Ben Uzoh (unattached) and Michael Gbinijie (Santa Cruz Warriors, USA) will be making their return to the national team fold after missing out of the 2017 Nations Cup co-hosted by Senegal and Tunisia.
Other players invited by the Coach Alex Nwora include Ofoegbu Chima (unattached), Ojo Michael Adetokunbo (Worcester Wolves, U.K), Mike Efevbeha (Sagesse, Lebanon), Obi Emenago (Rouen Basket, France), Omogbo Emmanuel (VL Pesaro, Italy), Nwogbo Lotana Afam (Sendai 89ers, Japan), Talib Zanna (Ironi Nes-Ziona, Israel) and Christopher Obekpa Ewaoche (Tranzaspor, Turkey).
According to arrangements already put in place by the NBBF, foreign-based players are to report to Bamako, Mali on February 19 to be joined by the players and officials from Nigeria.
Explaining the reason behind the arrangement, NBBF President, Musa Kida, said “Due to the FIBA calendar which opens on February 19, which is just about four days to the D’Tigers first game, telling all players to come to Nigeria before traveling to Mali will be mission impossible.
“We are expecting players from Europe, North America, South America and Asia, so we thought it wise that instead of going through the traveling stress ahead of the qualifiers, they should just report straight to Bamako.”
Speaking on Nigeria’s group, the head coach is optimistic about his team’s chances of qualifying from the group to the next round where the women team in 2017 won their Afrobasket title.
“Active players in their clubs who are available have been invited to represent Nigeria. We have a very formidable team that I believe will sail through,” Nwora said.
Nwora, who said Nigeria’s job in Mali is to win, complained that the new FIBA World Cup qualifying competition format has come with some set backs, especially during the February window where countries find it tough to get all their key players with leagues across the world already in full swing.