NBBF invites 15 players for 2019 World Cup qualifiers


The Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) yesterday picked Chile-based Bryant Mbamalu, Skipper Ike Diogu, Alade Aminu and 12 other players for the last window of the 2019 FIBA Men’s World Cup qualifying series scheduled for Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from February 18.

The Nigeria team, which has already qualified for the World Cup billed for China later this year, is dominated by players that missed the last phase of the qualifiers hosted in Lagos in 2018.Among the debutants in the team is Jekiri Tonye, who plays in Turkey, while Christopher Obekpa, Obinna Emegano and Efevhera Michael will also be making a return.

Ekene Ibekwe, whose last appearance was at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and 34-year- old Michael Umeh (2015 Afrobasket) with Italian Serie A side, Virtus Bologna have both been recalled to the fold.Stanley Okoye, Iroegbu Ike, Ike Nwamu, Ayodeji Akindele, Zana Talib and Braxton Ogbueze complete the list of invited players.

Nigeria will battle hosts, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic and second-placed Senegal at the Abidjan competition. Currently ranked 33 in the world and first in Africa, the D’Tigers on a nine-match unbeaten run, according to Head Coach, Alex Nwora, want to finish the campaign on a high and boost the team’s rating before the World Cup draws.

Speaking on the list, Nwora said preparation for the 2019 World Cup in China has started in earnest, adding that it was imperative to give more quality players equal opportunity to fight for shirts.

“We were the first country in the world to qualify for the World Cup and it is very important that we start our preparation early. The journey to get the team ready for the World Cup is a long one, but I am happy with the progress we have made so far,” he said.

According to the Secretary General of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Chimezie Asiegbu, the players and technical crew are expected to fly straight to Abidjan from their clubs for logistics reasons.

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