Nigeria national men basketball team, D’Tigers, could field a complete roster of current NBA players at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo the team’s General Manager Musa Adamu has told busybuddiesng.com.
D’Tigers’ 12-man roster for their last international outing at the FIBA World Cup last year marked the first time Nigeria would have six current and former NBA players compete for the country at a global event.
The benefits were clear as the D’Tigers finished the 32-nation tournament as Africa’s best-placed team in 17th place to earn the continent’s sole ticket to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The team featured Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimeze Metu and Josh Okogie who all play in the NBA for Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves respectively while the trio of captain Ike Diogu, Ekpe Udoh and Ben Uzoh have also played in the world’s elite basketball league in the past.
Following the tournament, guard Gabe Vincent was snapped up by 2019-20 NBA finalists Miami Heats.
Musa said the improved player quality in the team was the result of a deliberate policy by the current board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) which involved setting up a longrunning scouting programme to identify and tap up players of Nigerian descent playing in the NBA and other elite leagues.
The result of the NBBF policy according to Musa is a talent pool of about 44 foreign-based players including 15 NBA players eligible and willing to play for Nigeria.
The Federation also appointed Golden States Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown to take charge of the D’Tigers, at the Olympics.
While the appointment is undoubtedly an upgrade on the current technical set up, it feeds into the Federation’s broader strategy to get American-born NBA players of Nigerian descent to switch to D’Tigers.
“This is the first time we are getting four or five NBA players with top draft picks to come to the national team,” Musa told busybuddiesng.com.
“This started about two years ago when the new federation came. We started the process od scouting; we scouted over 200 Nigerians playing basketball professionally, and in schools outside Nigeria.
“We have been working so hard that we were able to bring up 44 out of them. So, out of the 44 we have over 15 NBA players that have Nigerian origin that we have talked to [and] that we have been trying to convince.
“About two or three of them just came into the NBA, others are going through a year of renewing their contracts. The ones we have here are the ones that have already signed their contracts, let me assure you that all the 15 are ready to come to play for Nigeria.”
Musa said that the six NBA affiliated players D’Tigers fielded in China could conceivably be doubled with the possibility that Nigeria could field a roster made up completely of current NBA players next year in Tokyo.
And he assured that the players aren’t being swayed to turn out for Nigeria ahead of the USA because of pecuniary considerations.
“They are NBA players so it’s not about money,” he said.
Musa listed the following newly drafted players as having indicated their willingness to play for Nigeria:
“There’s [21-year old Orlando Magic Power Forward] Chuma Okeke, [22-year old Utah Jazz Guard, Olumiye] “Miye” Oni [and 20-year old Miami Heat Small Forward who was originally drafted by the Pheonix Suns] Kezie Okpala that was drafted this year that’s the three of them.”
Of the established players in the NBA, Musa said: “We have [26-year old Brooklyn Nets Small Forward/Shooting Guard] David Nwaba, [23-year old New Orleans Pelicans Centre] Jahlil Okafor, [24-year old Orlando Magis Small Forward/Shooting Guard] Wesley Iwundu [and 22-years old Toronto Raptors Power Forward/Small Forward, Ogugua] “OG” Anunoby.”
“There are so many that I can’t remember all but we have all of them and I know that for the Olympics I guess that you will see maybe a roster with over 12 NBA players,” he said.
Nigeria has also reportedly made serious efforts to secure Miami Heat revelation Bam Adebayo for the D’Tigers with reports suggesting the US-born breakout star of last season’s NBA playoffs is seriously considering playing for the country at next year’s Olympics.