To go unbeaten in four years with an incredible 16-0 record has handed Nigeria the undisputed crown of African basketball and yet according to captain Adaora Elonu, D’Tigress are just getting started.
Back -to-back FIBA Women’s AfroBasket champions, Otis Hughley Jr’s side is targeting a place at the high table of the world stage and to do that, they need to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and compete at that level.
Such an accomplishment is not a walk in the park. If anything, they will have to be on top of their game to achieve this target and further chase their dream to conquer the world.
Nigeria made their debut at the Olympics 15 years ago in Athens and this generation wants to replicate that feat and even aim higher.
In an exclusive interview with FIBA.basketball, Nigeria captain Elonu said, “It feels very nice this qualification. We needed this to continue to fight for a chance to attend the Olympics.”
“For Nigeria, I think it means that we are making them proud. We work very hard and are still working to reach our goals. Nigeria has been very supportive of our success and we are glad we have been doing well thus far.”
“It has been great. Many ups and downs at times where the players and staff have had to preserve and showing this record makes it seem worth it.”
Nigeria alongside Mozambique will represent Africa in the final round of qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
They will have to wait until November 27 when the draw for the 16 teams that made it this far will be divided into four groups during a draw ceremony at the Patrick Baumann House of Basketball, FIBA Headquarters in Mies, Switzerland.
“The next level will be another challenge. These windows are difficult for all teams. Not much time for preparation and review. Our team has dealt with little preparations for many years and it is a luxury we know that can be very valuable. We are excited and ready to see our placement and country and have one mind there,” Elonu explained further.
“We are blessed and it will be an amazing achievement for us to reach the Olympics. It has always been on the mind of the federation and players and the opportunity is getting near. Talent can be abundant but having a good coach and players who have a similar mindset is what is critical.”
Following their impressive outing at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife, Spain, Nigeria are hungry for more international exposure for it gives them cult status in Africa.
Their improvement in the way they approach every game is visible to anyone with eyes that can see and it is this exact reason that keeps them on their toes wanting more and more.
Elonu highlighted that when she said, “It would be fantastic and similar to qualifying for the World Cup – a big achievement for Nigeria. We have one player who has been there before – Aisha Balarabe – and a flock of others who want to experience the event and compete.”
Nigeria and Mozambique will be placed in the same group with the top three sides qualifying automatically to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.