Had things gone to plan, his plan, Ikenna Iroegbu should have been a goalkeeper making saves for a top football team.
But far away from his childhood dreams, he is now a basketballer who come August may be representing Nigeria in the globe’s pinnacle basketball tournament – the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
The 1.88m (6ft1in) point guard shone bright for “D’Tigers” during the African Qualifiers, contributing an average of 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists as Nigeria returned to the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
“It’s a great feeling playing for Nigeria and now that we’ve qualified for the World Cup, I’m speechless cognizant that if I continue working hard I’ll be able to represent my country on the greatest basketball stage” the Sacramento native told FIBA.basketball.
“We wanted to end the qualifiers unbeaten but things didn’t go as we expected. I wanted to come out aggressive, play on my best level and make my teammates and compatriots happy.”
With the qualifiers now in the rear, Iroegbu who will turn 23 on March 14, has cast his attention to the China showdown with the goal of worming his way into the star-studded “D’Tigers” Final roster.
“I am working hard, perfecting my skills and certain moves as well as pushing my body to the limit to make sure I can get better. I want to stay healthy and be ready for the competition.
“My goal is to get a medal
Iroegbu who plies his trade with Lithuania outfit Lietkabelis Panevezys revealed the importance of the family support in his progress as playing for his country is a mission.
“Whenever I wear the Nigerian jersey, I just want to perform. I think about my siblings, my family and those millions of Nigerians and fans watching us, praying for us and encouraging us to victory. I feel responsible and I realize it’s a duty to be exceptional and this is what I want to do all along.”
Growing up, Iroegbu watched Nigeria’s football team the “Super Eagles” and had hoped to become a professional footballer. But when his parents installed a hoop in their backyard, he picked up the basketball virus playing every time he could.
“I played football more when I was younger and at times basketball. My parents had installed a hoop behind the house and at times I’ll go out and play until my mum will ask me to come back in. So at some point we had to pick a sport and I went for basketball,” he offered.
“My family and friends supported me and I remember how they stood by me during the hard times. That’s why playing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China will mean a lot for me and them. I just want to go to China, be exciting and make everyone happy and hopefully win a medal,” he concluded.