By: Rob Scott / @robscott33
Nigeria pulled off a shock in the Additional Qualifying tournament to make their first Olympic Games. This particular team are literal newcomers to the world basketball stage as seven of the twelve men that ousted Greece in Venezuela had never played for the national team before this summer.
Of the roster that finished third at Afrobasket 2011, only Ejike Christopher Ugboaja, Derrick Obasohan and Olumide Oyedeji remain. Ten of their twelve were born in the United States and came up in the high school and college system. Like any nation, Nigeria has the right to pick all eligible players and the new team comes from the huge Nigerian diaspora in the United States, so this isn’t a criticism, just an observation. But, now we’ve dispensed with the ‘fairytale for African basketball’ angle, can these guys actually go one further and make the knockout round in London?
G – Derrick Obasohan (Joventut Badalona, Spain)
G – Ade Daganduro (Leuven Bears, Belgium)
G – Anthony Skinn (Ironi Ashkelon, Israel)
G – Chamberlain Oguchi (Panteras de Miranda, Venezuela)
G – Richard Dean Oruche (Academica, Puerto Rico)
F – Al-Farouq Aminu (New Orleans Hornets, NBA)
F – Ike Diogu (Capetianes de Arecibo, Puerto Rico)
F – Ekene Ibekwe (BBC Bayreuth, Germany)
F – Koko Archibong (Giessen 46ers, Germany)
F – Ejike Christopher Ugboaja (Janesh Tarabor, Iran)
C – Olumide Oyedeji (Quingdao Double Star, China)
C – Alade Aminu (Elan Chalon, France)
Coach: Ayo Bakare (Comets, Nigeria)
In Venezuela, Nigeria often played sloppy, uncontrolled but intense basketball and hit all the big shots at the right times, hammered the offensive glass to extend possessions, and got by on a combination of luck, talent and for want of a better word, swag. They only have one real ballhandler, Tony Skinn, who you might remember from George Mason University’s Final Four run of 2006. Skinn is a quick, skilled playmaker who can attack off the dribble and make the right pass most of the time. New Orleans Hornet Al-Farouq Aminu is relentless in attacking the rim, while guards Obasohan and Ade Daganduro never met a three-ball they didn’t like. When their shots are dropping, this team could be very dangerous. Former Spur Ike Diogu gives them size and mobility in the post, and another beast on the boards.
They should beat Tunisia in the competition’s opening game and then face a rematch against Lithuania, a team they beat in the qualifying tournament. It didn’t look like the latter were going full tilt in that game, but like France, another one of Nigeria’s group A opponents, the Baltic team are not the most consistent performers and won’t be able to take ‘D’Tigers’ lightly.
Where they might come unstuck is that their opponents now have film to study, and time to prepare. Coach Ayo Bakare was totally justified in playing to his new team’s strengths in the qualifiers: isolations for Aminu, and a pick and roll, drive and kick attack based around Skinn’s ability to penetrate. That worked fine in the qualifiers, but at the next level they may need more ideas.
The Swing Man
Derrick Obasohan should be familiar to ACB fans for his willingness to shoot the long ball, or, some might say, his unrepentant chucking. He attempted five threes per game and hit 37% of them. But, if the shots start dropping in London, the upset could be on.
They should beat Tunisia, and will run at least one of France and Lithuania close, but Argentina and the USA are going to be several steps too far. They will win friends and admirers for their uptempo style, but the quarterfinals should be beyond them.
Best English Accent
Virtually the whole team grew up in America, so you’d think they could all pull one off, if pushed. Skinn went to George Mason, a university named after a founding father, that has a ‘Prince William Campus’ so probably him.