FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup: Nigeria look to shock the world in Spain

by Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam, AIPS Young Reporter, Nigeria

LAGOS, September 3, 2018 – No African team has ever recorded a win in the group stage of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, but Nigeria are looking to change that narrative at this year’s edition scheduled for September 22-30 in Tenerife, Spain.

The D’Tigress are currently in Lagos for the second phase of preparation ahead of the tournament and they have continued to express confidence in their ability to “shock” the world.

“We want to shock people. People don’t talk of Nigeria outside of Africa but we want to change that,” said forward Cecilia Okoye.

A little over a year ago in Mali, Okoye was a member of the Nigerian roster that dominated the continent in clinical fashion to clinch the FIBA Women’s Afrobasket title for the first time in 12 years without losing a game.

The team draws inspiration from that victory which is etched in history but it is left to see if their continental exploits could be replicated on the global stage.

A total of nine African countries have featured at the World Cup since Madagascar paved the way in 1971 but none have scored up to 100 points in a game. Meanwhile Africa’s victories so far – seven of them – have only come in the classification stages.

The reigning African champions will take on Group B opponents Australia, Turkey and Argentina in their second World Cup appearance. Nigeria’s debut appearance in FIBA’s premier international tournament for women’s national basketball teams was in Brazil in 2006 and Australia emerged champions. Turkey hosted the last edition of the tournament and finished fourth behind Australia.

Knowing what is at stake, point guard, Ezinne Kalu-Phelps is demanding complete focus from her teammates.

“I expect everybody to have a solid focus. We are ready to finish the second part of camp and get a solid defence going. I expect that everybody will come in and stay focused because the second phase of the camp is the most important.”

The 26-year-old former co-captain of the team, who plies her trade with Vasa Akademia in the Hungarian league added: “I look forward to us competing, I look forward to us doing great things.”

The D’Tigress held their first phase of camping in Atlanta and it was during that time that their 2017 Afrobasket winning coach, Sam Vincent was replaced with Otis Hughley, a former Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors assistant coach. Vincent was said to have abandoned the team due to other conflicting professional engagements. An allegation he has since denied.

But Hughley is now the one charged with the responsibility of leading the team to glory in Spain.

Hughley declared to the press: “I just want to win. I’m a winner, I associate myself with winners and Nigeria has the makings of being big time winners through the years. We want to make a statement. We can’t say how good they (the D’Tigress) are now but how good they can be.”

The D’Tigress will travel to Turkey to play some friendly matches before the commencement of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup formerly known as the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Past victories by African teams in the classification stages

1990: Senegal 73 – 41 Malaysia; Senegal 60 – 52 Zaire; Zaire 88 – 46 Malaysia
1998: Senegal 67 – 59 Argentina
2002: Senegal 87 – 52 Tunisia
2006: Senegal 66 – 64 Nigeria
2010: Mali 69 – 67 Senegal

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