Head coach of Nigeria’s senior men’s basketball team Alex Nwora has expressed fears that delays by the Sports Ministry in releasing funds for the team’s participation at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China could adversely affect their performance and discourage NBA players of Nigerian descent from wanting to play for the country.
Nwora who was appointed in 2017, led D’Tigers to become the first team from Africa to qualify for the 32-team tournament thirteen years from their last appearance but with just over a fortnight to the start of the tournament and Nigeria’s first game against Russia, the USA based coach told busybuddiesng.com that he has no idea about when his team will be travelling to China because the ministry is yet to release funds for the team.
He said all the funds being used to prosecute the team’s training camps and friendly matches have come from the personal coffers of Nigeria Basketball Federation’s president Musa Kida.
“Unfortunately, as of now, we’ve run into a little stumbling block because of funding. I think everything has been coming from one source which is Engineer Musa Kida,” Nwora told busybuddiesng.com at the team’s open training session at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium in Lagos.
“As of now, the ministry hasn’t released anything. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen anything from the ministry. If they’ve done I don’t know I wasn’t aware of it. As of now, I don’t really know when we are going to travel.”
Many basketball fans have tipped Nigeria to do well at the tournament chiefly because of the quality of talent available to the country. D’Tigers boast four NBA players within the 15-man provisional squad in camp with three of them making their first berths in the national team.
With so much effort having gone into convincing those players who could have opted to represent the USA to choose Nigeria instead, Nwora said that the shoddy treatment meted out to the team by the Sports Ministry sends a bad message and could put a spanner in the works of the NBBF to attract elite NBA talent to the national team.
“We came to Nigeria just to present this team to the country but also there’s no help from the ministry for the funding that we’re supposed to use to travel and most of these NBA players that we’ve brought to play for Nigeria this is the first time they’re coming here and being honest if we don’t show them, love, and also good preparation and show that we are more organised as a country to make sure that the government does their own part it’s going to be tough to have them back here to represent Nigeria,” he warned.
D’Tigers under Nwora have come on in leaps and bounds with a recent FIBA power ranking for the World Cup placing Nigeria as the 8th best team out of the 32 teams that will be partaking in the tournament.
But the coach fears that all the progress recorded in the past two years is in danger of being undone because of a “disheartening” lack of forward planning on the part of the Sports Ministry.
The coach warned that with the uncertainty surrounding the team, the Sports Ministry will have to take responsibility for any blame if D’Tigers fail to do well in China.
“We are just going to go back to what we were doing before. We are making big strides, we are ranked number eight now for this world championships that says a lot about the work that I’ve done within these two years that I’ve been here.
“It’s disheartening just to see that we’ve come to this point where your own government doesn’t want to release the funds to make it easier for us to be able to do our jobs.
“Now that we are here going to the world cup we shouldn’t be crying about this. This should have been taken care of, the funds should have been made available to the Federation for us to be able to do our jobs and if that fund isn’t readily available for the Federation we are going to run into problems.
“Then it’s going to affect the performance; you’re not going to expect us to go there to win if we are not properly taken care of as a national team. We are representing Nigeria and somebody is sitting somewhere and not doing what they’re supposed to do, it’s not fair for us.”
Nigeria are grouped in Group B alongside Argentina, Russia, and Korea in and start their World Cup campaign against Russia on Saturday, 31 August in Wuhan.