D’Tigress star forward Evelyn Akhator says she was ‘surprised’ when Nigeria was drawn to face World and Olympic Champions USA at the Tokyo 2020 Games in Japan.
Last week, the Nigeria senior female basketball national team were drawn against rivals and World No. 1 USA, fifth-ranked France and hosts, Japan in a difficult Group B of the postponed Tokyo Olympics, which will be staged from 23 July to 8 August this year.
In what is becoming an epic and fascinating rivalry, USA defeated D’Tigress 71-40 as Nigeria became the first African country to reach the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2018, before the 4-time African champions lost to the Americans 71-76 after edging the first two quarters at the Olympic Qualifying event in Belgrade, Serbia a year ago.
In a radio interview monitored by www.busybuddiesng.com, the 26-year-old Flammes Carolo of France player added that D’Tigress would be mentally ready for the tough challenge.
Asked how she felt when the draws were made, the 2-time Afrobasket champion said: “First, I was surprised, I didn’t expect us to play USA from the beginning. I was actually expecting it from, like probably, the quarter-finals or something.
“But again, it is what it is. We just move, we move, you know. We can’t dwell in it. It has already happened. All we need is just to prepare and get our minds right, that’s the most important thing.”
D’Tigress will open their campaign at the Tokyo Olympics against defending champions USA on 27 July, before facing European powerhouse France on 30 July, while hosts Japan will be their last group foes on 2 August.
The former WNBA star said her teammates are all poised for a showdown in Tokyo.
“We all are ready,” she said. “Like in the group chat, we were just talking about it. We all are ready, and ready to just get on the court and do what we got to do, you know.
“At the end of the day, there’s always going to be just a winner. So, it’s all about who wants it more. And no matter who you play, it’s all about the effort. So, that was what we spoke about.”
Aside helping D’Tigress claim back-to-back Afrobasket titles in 2017 and 2019, Akhator was an integral part of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in China, three years ago.