Nigeria’s senior men’s and women’s national teams will play international friendly games against top-ranked teams ahead of this year’s continental championships, the country’s basketball federation’s chairman Tijjani Umar announced.
The Nigerians have been invited by Lithuania, Australia, France, Serbia and China.
The reigning FIBA AfroBasket champions have automatically qualified for this summer’s continental event and, unlike most Africa national teams; they won’t take part in the regional qualifiers.
“This is a huge move forward,” Umar said. “Everything is being paid for by the host – ticket, accommodation, local transport, all we have to do is present a team.”
He went on to detail that Nigeria’s recent appearances in world tournaments – the Rio Olympics and FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament – as well as their current placing in the FIBA World Ranking Combined, gave their teams significant exposure.
“Our team played in Rio and they did – people would say not very well – but in my mind, they did well. Because after the tournament, we moved up 9 spots on the FIBA Ranking,” Umar explained.
As for the women’s team, who last won a continental title in 2005, Umar noted: “What we did with the WOQT was to take D’Tigress from the African level and put them at the level of the world. So that this year 2017, for AfroBasket Women, there won`t be any competition. Our ladies will win AfroBasket for this year.”