Head coach of Nigeria’s female national basketball team Otis Hugley Jr said he never harboured any doubts about the ability of D’Tigress to defeat Senegal in the final and retain the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket trophy.
American Hugley Jr coached D’Tigress through a flawless run that saw them win all five of their matches in the tournament including a nervy 60-55 win in the final over hosts and eleven-time champions Senegal at the Dakar Arena.
Having gone through their first four opponents – Tunisia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali – with consummate ease, D’Tigress met a formidable foe in Senegal who were roared on by a mammoth crowd of 15,000 spectators – the most ever recorded at a basketball match on the continent.
But despite Senegal rallying to draw level with a little over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hugley said he never feared for his team who he described as the best in Africa and one of the best in the world.
“I was never worried, we are the best team in Africa and we are one of the best teams in the world and they haven’t seen the best version of us yet,” Hugley Jr said.
Even though he professed to being calm in the face of Senegal’s resurgence, Hugley Jr said he told his team to “play like a mad man” and to “play defence like you’ve never played it before” in order to stem the tide of the Senegalese and make up for their erratic shooting and poor free-throw percentage which at 58.6% was the second-worst of the twelve teams in the competition.
“I knew we weren’t shooting the ball well, I knew we had problems at the free-throw line all tournament, I said: ‘take care of the ball and play defence like you’ve never played it before. Like a mad man with intelligence but under control’. That’s what those girls did,” Hugley said.
And having led D’Tigress to become the first-ever African team to make the quarterfinals of the FIBA Women’s World Cup last year, the former Sacramento Kings assistant coach described his first-ever title as head coach means a “redemption for Africa”.
“It means a lot to me,” Hughley Jr who was formerly head coach of Chinese Taipei said.
“It’s redemption for Africa, It’s redemption for Nigeria, long overdue and well-deserved. So, I’m excited.”