Nigeria’s men’s senior basketball national team, D’Tigers’ coach, Alex Nwora has admitted it was not an easy task for him in selecting his final roster of 12 players for this year’s FIBA World Cup in China.
After rolling out the squad list to represent Nigeria against Russia, Argentina and Korea in their group games starting this Saturday in Wuhan, China, Nwora confessed that he felt emotional strained in having to leave out three of the lads that traveled with the team.
The former Cape Verde handler, though, acknowledged that he had to make the cuts in line with FIBA regulations for the competition, hence his inevitable exclusion of three that were in his camp up till Tuesday.
Nwora eventually reeled out a seemingly balanced squad of veterans and youngsters, with a splash of some that had been part of Nigeria’s victory at the Afrobasket three years ago with some emergent ones.
D’Tigers will be led out at China 2019 by team captain, Ike Diogu, who was a regular throughout the qualifying series, alongside Ike Iroegbu, Benjamin Uzoh, Al-Farouk Aminu, Zanna Talib and Stanley Okoye.
They are joined by Stockton Kings of USA fast-rising forward, Vincent Nnamdi, who booked a spot in the team alongside new kids on the block, Chimezie Metu, Jordan Nwora and Joshua Okogie after impressive form in the team’s build-up friendly matches.
They all excelled during the run-up to China 2019, as the team that is ranked ranked 33rd in the world defeated higher placed Dominican Republic (18th), Canada (23rd), Poland (25th) and Montenegro (28th) as part of their preparations for the World Cup.
Also in the squad is 2016/2017 EuroLeague winner and Final Four MVP, Ekpe Udoh, who is set to make his competitive debut for D’Tigers with youthful centre, Michael Eric, whose father, Joe Erico was once Nigeria’s national football team number one goalkeeper.
The full list of chosen 12 and their clubs are Ike Ireogbu (Science City Jena, Germany), Uzoh Benjamin Chukwukelo (Caballeros de Culican), Okogie Joshua Aloiye (Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA), Nwora Jordan Ifeanyi (University of Louisville, USA), Vincent Nnamdi Gabriel (Stockton Kings, NBA), and Aminu Al Farouq (Orlando Magic, NBA).
Others are Diogu Ikechukwu Somto (Bayaman Vaqueros, Puerto Rico), Zanna Talib (Montakit Fuenlabrada, Spain), Ekpe Udoh (Utah Jazz, NBA), Chimezie Metu (San Antonio Spurs, NBA), Stanley Okoye (Tecnyconta Zaragoza, Spain) and Michael Eric (Darussafaka, Turkey).
After making the list public on Tuesday, Nwora, who guided Nigeria to become the first country to qualify for this year’s FIBA World Cup, said all the players are motivated to go for glory, as they are boosted by high expectations from their fans at home and abroad for them to perform.
Although Nwora believes he has a crack team that can make Nigeria proud in China, he confessed that it was not easy for him leaving out the trio of Alade Aminu, Ike Nwamu and Deji Akindele.
Nwora admitted: “If I had my way, we would have registered all the 15 players for the World Cup, because all these players have unique qualities that they bring to the team.
“These are the best players we have at our disposal right now. We are very aware of expectations back home (but) it was very hard pruning the team from 15 to 12 as required by FIBA.