2021 Olympics, Plethora Of Foreign Influence Setting The Tone For D’tigers
There is a thin air of possibility that Nigeria’s male national Basketball team, D’Tigers would shine at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which has been moved to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic that made it impossible to continue the tournament as already previously planned.
Nigeria’s national basketball team, the D’Tigers appear to be taking good advantage of the situation, using the one-year extension to make much-needed improvements on the team that earned the Olympics ticket.
The D’Tigers qualified for the Olympics by beating China in the 2019 FIBA world cup, which also happened to be the first time the team had up to 6 current and former NBA players donning the famous green jersey, and it looks like the American influence on the roster is about to grow even bigger.
Over the last few months a new head coach has been appointed, American Mike Brown comes in with a lot of NBA pedigree to replace Alex Nwora, and as a domino effect, the Nigerian team is starting to look a lot more attractive to players that are currently not representing any country.
FIBA’s very loose international rules make it quite easy for players to simply choose what country they want to represent, regardless of whether or not they actually have any ties to the country of choice.
New Orleans Pelicans centre, Jahlil Okafor had already announced prior to the pandemic that he would be playing for Nigeria at the 2020 Olympics before it was then moved forward. Okafor would definitely add some extra quality to the D’Tigers. There’s a reason he was selected as the 3rd overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2015 draft.
Another NBA star that has pledged allegiance to the Nigerian national team is Brooklyn Nets guard, Spencer Dinwiddie who agreed to represent the D’Tigers at the Olympics despite not having any ties to Nigeria.
The 27-year-old point guard decided to switch allegiance in April after he was dropped from the USA’s 44-man shortlist despite having a good season for the Nets. Dinwiddie made the step up to become the starting Point Guard for Brooklyn after Kyrie Irving’s long injury, and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game, leading the Nets to a playoff spot.
If Spencer Dinwiddie eventually does play for the D’Tigers of Nigeria, it’s hard not to picture him doing well and adding some extra quality to the side, and definitely an improvement on current Point guards, Ike Iroegbu and Ben Izoh, no disrespect to them.
BAM ADEBAYO ON THE HORIZON?
With Okafor and Dinwiddie already in the bag, the Nigerian Basketball federation is apparently not done recruiting, reports making the round that NBBF President, Musa Kida is actively trying to convince Miami Heat center, Bam Adebayo to represent his father’s country.
Bam had already been invited to the USA team, last year in preparation for the FIBA world cup. Still, he failed to make the final cut, dropped alongside Thadeus Young, which makes him eligible to represent Nigeria or any other country.
Adebayo has grown in leaps and bounds since he was rejected by Dream team, asserting himself as one the best centers in the NBA right now, earning himself a first Allstar berth and playing a pivotal role in Miami’s run to the NBA finals where they were beaten by the Lakers.
All of that makes him a more appealing player for the USA team, and even though Nigeria are the current aggressors for his services, it remains to be seen whether Bam Adebayo, a player seemingly at the peak of his powers, will turn down the United States of America to represent Nigeria.
Other NBA players to have openly expressed desire to represent the D’Tigers include 21-year-old Miami Heat forward, Kezie Okpala, who was assigned to Miami Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He averaged 11.7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game in 20 appearances with the Skyforce.
Utah Jazz guard, Miye Oni, Orlando Magic forward, Chuma Okeke and 23-year-old OG Anunoby of the Toronto Raptors to name a few.
Make no mistake; the D’Tigers already have a strong enough roster as it is, a good blend of youth in Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora, Chimezie Metu and Ike Iroegbu with the more experienced guys like Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Michael, Ben Uzo etc. to complement them.
With all the moves they are making, it’s safe to assume that the Nigeria D’Tigers are going to be one of the teams to watch in Tokyo next year when the Olympics finally get underway.