The Nigeria Basketball Federation has moved to quell speculation about the makeup of Nigeria’s final squad to the Tokyo Olympics with many fearing the men’s and women’s team could be populated by foreign-born players with no connection to the country amid a spate of recent announcements by NBA players switching their international allegiance to Nigeria because of the Olympics.
Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris on Friday became the latest American committing to playing for Nigeria internationally as a naturalised player, joining the Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie who made the switch a year ago.
While the announcement elicited a great deal of excitement in some quarters, a significant number of fans expressed fears the developments could lead to bad blood in the team among players who have been there from the beginning and may now lose their spots due to the defections.
Yet others believe the moves demeans Nigeria and portrays the country as desperate for castoffs unable to make the American team and who are now using Africa’s top-ranked team as a means of fulfiling their ambitions to play at the Olympics. They believe that only players with parental connections should represent the national team.
NBBF president Musa Kida has, however, moved to allay any fears of foreign-born players waltzing into the team even though FIBA rules allow a quota for naturalized players regardless of their connections to a country.
Kida declared that the Federation will not guarantee any player an automatic shirt in both national teams.
Kida pointed out that foreigners wanting to represent the country should be seen as a testament to Nigeria’s elevated standing in global basketball.
“Many high profile players have started giving a thought to what D’Tigers and D’Tigress stand for. Many who would have turned us down in the past if invited are now hustling to get our attention which for us is a good thing,” Kida told NBBF media.
“The tide where Nigerians aspired to and left the country has completely changed where qualified non-Nigerians have expressed interest in playing for Nigeria,” he added.
With a series of camps lined up for the D’Tigers before the summer games in Tokyo, the NBBF assured that all eligible players have equal chances of getting invited to camp and making the final list.
The NBBF president revealed that many foreign-born players are still in talks with the coaching crew led by Mike Brown about playing for Nigeria and stressed that the technical crew will have the final say in deciding the final roster for the 2020 Olympics.
He enjoined basketball stakeholders to enjoy the moment and attention the national team brands are getting across the world.
“Let us just enjoy these moments because it’s the first time it’s happening in Nigerian Basketball, It is now a case of people wanting to play for us which is my opinion can only be a good development.”