Rivers Hoopers head coach Ogoh Odaudu believes his team’s status as Nigeria’s worthy champions can no longer be disputed following their triumph at the Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports Development (FMYSD) Final 8 tournament.
Hoopers brushed off Gombe Bulls 74-57 in the final played at the Indoor Sports Hall, Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja on Tuesday to retain the title.
The triumph means Hoopers will reprise their spot as Nigeria’s representatives at the second season of the Basketball Africa League next year.
In qualifying for the inaugural BAL which was held early this year, Hoopers won the 2020 President Cup, a competition organised by the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) but boycotted by some leading teams including Gombe Bulls and Kano Pillars.
The absence of both sides led many to question Hoopers’ triumph with some deeming the KingsMen unworthy champions.
With both sides playing in the competition this year and with Hoopers still emerging champions, Odaudu says there can be no ‘cloud of doubt’ about the identity of Nigeria’s best basketball side.
Odaudu was particularly pleased Hoopers got to “humiliate” Gombe Bulls in the final.
While the Port Harcourt-based side did not get to play Pillars in the course of the tournament, Odaudu believes that by hammering Bulls who beat Pillars in their run to the final, Hoopers have conclusively proven they are worthy champions.
“It is very, very special because we had been walking around with a cloud of doubt hanging over our heads all the time, thinking that, ‘would we have been bad representatives if Gombe had come? Would we have been bad representatives if Kano Pillars had come?” Odaudu said.
“So, everybody did not think that we were the true champions, because of the fact that these two supposedly best teams in Nigeria were not around.
“But thank God they were around. What we didn’t really like was the fact that we didn’t get to play Kano at all. It would’ve been better if we had beaten both of them on our way to the championship, so to let them know that, yes, they are not the two best teams, these are the two best teams.
“But well, Gombe humiliated Kano [on Monday], and we humiliated Gombe [on Tuesday], so we could tell that, well, nobody can now say that we are not the real champions.”
“We are the champions of Nigeria right now.”