Adamu Deshi, the Technical Director of Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), says D’Tigers have to improve their defence to have a chance of success at the FIBA World Cup in China.
The senior national men’s basketball team were at the final round of qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup where they won one and lost two of their three matches.
“Technically, we have realised that we need to work on our defence. We have sharp shooters, good scorers and outstanding rebounders, but we need to be more compact defensively.
“We also need to improve upon our on-court communication. The basic problem going to the World Cup, however, is our defence and I can assure you that the coaching crew is working on it.
“In basketball, you cannot afford to be poor defensively even when you score many points. You need to recover fast to defend in order to go and score again.
“An improved defence will help our performance at the World Cup,” Deshi told the News Agency of Nigeria (NNN) on Friday in Abuja.
He however insisted that D’Tigers should not be assessed on the strength of their performance in Cote d’Ivoire recently.
The D’Tigers suffered defeats in the final window of the FIBA qualifiers in Cote d’Ivoire, losing 46-72 points to the hosts in their opening game and 63-84 to Senegal in their final game.
The team however managed to record a 75-59 points win against the Central African Republic (CAR) inbetween their defeats.
It was a far cry from their previous performances, when they became the first team in the world to qualify for the finals, winning nine straight games.
But Deshi downplayed the poor showing in Cote d’Ivoire, saying it was part of a team-building process.
“We are building for the World Cup finals. So, what the coaching crew did was to assemble players so that we can select from a large pool of those who played during the qualifiers.
“We are still building our team. It was more or less a fresh team in Abidjan and it was part of the team-building process,” he assured.
Two home-based players, Ibe Agu of Gombe Bulls and Buchi Nwaiwu of Rivers Hoopers, were belatedly invited to replace Ike Nwamu and Christopher Obekpa.
The duo of Nwamu and Obekpa had opted out of the qualifiers due to administrative issues and club commitment.
Also, Deshi said the decision was a deliberate attempt by Coach Alex Nwora to offer opportunities to home-based players.
“In spite of the fact that we had already qualified for the World Cup, we tried to expand our pool of players to select for the finals. The coaches used the last window to test fresh players and returning players.
“You can also see that we selected home-based players too in Abidjan to offer them the opportunity to fight for a place in the World Cup team.’’
The D’Tigers had hoped to finish the qualifiers on a high to boost the team’s rating before the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China in August.
However, the two defeats in three games will not help the team and may see them drawn alongside basketball heavyweights in March.(NNN)