Nigeria’s D’Tigers have qualified for their first ever Olympic Men’s basketball event. D’Tigers picked the ticket when they outdunked Dominican Republic 88-73points in the last-chance game at the FIBA qualifying tournament.
Nigeria had shocked favourites, Greece, in the quarter-finals, but were beaten in the semi-finals on Saturday by Russia, who booked their own place with that win.
Lithuania had also secured a spot on Saturday with victory over the Dominican Republic, leaving Nigeria and the Dominicans to play one last contest for the third and final berth still up for grabs.
Ike Diogu, a 10-year NBA veteran, who was with the San Antonio Spurs last season before a spell with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers, led Nigeria with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“I’m very happy. We did what had to be done,” Diogu said. “We knew we were going to face teams that are heavyweights, and we did what we needed to do – win.”
Coach Ayo Bakare, who has masterminded Nigeria’s relentless defensive style and exciting brand of offence, said his team’s performance has been against the odds.
“The country’s focus is on football,” he said.
“We came here with less than one per cent of the funds football would have got if they had the same opportunity.”
But Bakare believes the team’s success and the entertaining style they play will deliver basketball a higher place in the pecking order.
“It’s changing already,” he said.
“We had a phone call from the minister, the ambassador has been at every game. For us, if we have this exposure it begins to work for us.”
Nigeria, ranked 21st in the International Basketball Federation, FIBA, world rankings, had 14 points from Al-Farouq Aminu, who plays for the New Orleans Hornets in the NBA.