Captain of the Nigeria national basketball team, Ike Diogu, has revealed that the current players in the team are well motivated to give a good first impression of themselves at the 2019 FIBA Men’s World Cup taking place in China.
D’Tigers will be making a third appearance at the World Cup and a first since 2006, though, all 15 players in the national team camp will be participating in the competition for the first time in their careers if selected as part of the final 12-man rooster.
And Diogu said the chance to be at the World Cup, which will take place between August 31 and September 15, means everything to the members of the squad. “It means a lot because none of us has played in the World Cup,” he said.
The Sichuan Blue Whales star: “The one time we had a chance of qualifying was in 2013 and we lost in the quarter finals of the Afrobasket. This is the first time for us all and we want to make sure we do something special.”
Diogu gave a thumbs up on the high quality of training program for D’Tigers, saying it has really improved the national team’s overall performance as evident in the four friendly matches played so far.
“We have got a lot of good young players and we are all excited to represent Nigeria in the right way. We are preparing very well and we expect to have a successful outing at the World Cup,” he said.
Diogu said that the series of friendlies and the training camps in New York, Canada and Lagos have given the team ample time to blend and get familiar with each other.
“We just have to make sure we play as a team. Individually we know how good we are. We have a good collection of NBA talents and high level Europe based talents. We just have to play collectively as a group and I guess we should be fine against everybody else,” Diogu added.
Nigeria made its debut on the global stage at the 1998 World Cup in Athens, Greece while the last appearance was in 2006 where the team got eliminated in the round of 16.
The team would be hoping to do better and get their campaign in Group B of the 2019 World Cup underway with a clash against Russia on August 31, before facing Argentina on September 2 and South Korea on September 4 with the top two teams in each group advancing to the second round.
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