Fresh from leading her team to yet another league championship, First Bank Basketball Club Power Forward, Nkem Uwa Akaraiwe believes the time is now ripe for a move abroad after six years of playing in Nigeria.
The 21-year old, 6’2 forward was in imperial form scoring seventeen points and notching up eleven rebounds and four blocks as her team defeated Dolphins Basketball Club 84 – 66 in the final of the 2018 Zenith Bank Basketball Women League for a record-extending ninth league title. With First Bank qualifying alongside Dolphins as Nigeria’s representatives on the continent, Akaraiwe who was voted league MVP and led other players in rebounds and blocked shots said her aim on the continent is “to come back with the cup”.
“First of all we have to take it step by step and qualify from the zonals,” Akaraiwe told busybuddiesng.com. “Not just to qualify but to prove to them that Nigeria can play basketball that’s what I want and at the end of the whole tournament on the continent proper we want to come back with the cup.”
Having being part of the senior national team, D’Tigress squad to the 2018 FIBA Women World Cup in Spain albeit without making an appearance, Akaraiwe who is currently in Lomé, Togo as a member of D’Tigress’ 3×3 team to the 2018 FIBA 3×3 Africa Cup says making the world cup squad and being able to be around great players, taught her a lot of things that has helped improve her game.
“Going for the world cup has really improved my game,” she says, “I went to the world cup although I did not play, I never felt bad for once because I saw great players, I met the ones in the WNBA. I saw that they are not really doing something that much it’s just the experience, just play smart on the court.
“I tried to learn from them even if I was sitting on the bench, I have to learn how they play, if you see me sitting on the bench I’m always observant. I know I’m very young but I have to learn from the older ones I have to learn the way they play, the way they motivate themselves on and off the court so that I can put it into my play and it really helped me in this Zenith Women League.”
Being in close proximity with all those players from the WNBA and other European leagues must surely have ignited a desire in the young forward to step up and perhaps try out her luck abroad having been with First Bank since 2012. Akaraiwe says the prospect of playing abroad is one she is seriously exploring.
“By the Grace of God I’m not thinking of playing here next year,” she says. “So help me God, I’m trying to leave I think I’ve tried enough playing in this league. I’m making efforts, there are conversations but we are yet to sign.”
So where in particular is she see looking to play abroad?
“I be Igbo girl, I don talk am before,” she says, “I just want to play Euroleague make my money and come back”.