After the Nigerian Men’s Basketball team started their Tokyo Olympics campaign with a defeat to Australia, Nigerians will hope the Women’s team will give them something to cheer about when they face USA on Tuesday morning.
Winning a Gold medal in the Olympics is no more an achievement for team USA it is a standard they have set for decades, amassing 8 Gold medals 1 silver and 1 bronze medal. For Nigeria they have a point to prove, having lost to the aforementioned North American side in an exhibition game.
One player to watch out for Nigeria is, Landerneau BB Point Guard Ezinne Kalu who won the 2019 AfroBasket Championship with the team. Her pace trickery and ability to initiate attack will give USA problems. She was part of the team that where on the verge of making history at the 2018 FIBA Championship when Nigeria lost narrowly to USA after 76-71, after leading the first-half.
We saw a glimpse of what Erica Ogwumike will offer in that friendly against the Yankee ladies, she shot well from the free-throw line 2/2, 1/3 from beyond the arc 33.3%. The figures are not big tho, but dropping that in 10 mins and a game where the entire Nigerian team where poor means a lot.
Captain fantastic Adaora Elonu will lead the team to their first Olympics since 2004. The likes of Amy Okonkwo, Vicoria Macauley, Promise Amukamara, Elizabeth Balogun and others will participate in their first Olympics.
If i do forget, Aisha Balarabe, some Nigerians will not forgive me. You’ve got to respect that name, she’s been balling since 2004. Heading to her 2nd Olympics, her experience and leadership qualities should help the team going forward.
A quick look into the USA Women’s team, they have experience, they have medals and they are so talented. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi has 8 Gold medals combined in the Olympics. Brittney Gray’s paint presence is terrifying.
Guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and her Phoenix Mercury teammates, Taurasi and center Brittney Griner, are use to running the pick-and-roll, and Griner has one of the best shooting percentages in the WNBA.
But one struggles to point out is that the women’s team had some troubles early this summer, losing consecutive exhibition games for the first time since 2011, although one loss was to a team of WNBA all-stars. But the six-time defending Olympic champions are too talented to come home with anything but gold.
A frontcourt duo of A’ja Wilson and Stewart sounds like a match made in heaven. Wilson punishes teams on the inside and with this being her Olympic debut, the 2020 WNBA MVP will look to make a statement. The 2020 Finals MVP will be playing alongside Wilson and her ability to space the floor at her size in addition to scoring efficiently from everywhere on the court makes her an impossible matchup for opponents. Team USA had a rocky exhibition slate, but now that the team has gotten some games under their belt, look for them to get off to a great start today.
The Tokyo Olympics will be only the second Olympics Games where the Nigerian national team has ever participated. Before that, the Nigerians played in Athens-2004, where they failed to advance from the group stage. Also, the Nigeria national team participated twice at the world championships – in 2006 it didn’t make it through the group stage, and in 2018 it reached the quarterfinals.
In the coming years, the situation may change – the NBA program for the creation of training camps, including in African countries, is working. For the men’s team, coached by Mike Brown, and half of which is already in the best league in the world, the trend is more noticeable. The women’s team, although lagging behind the men, is also developing. There is a representative of the NCAA, European championships, as well as an American coach – Otis Hughley.
The game comes up Tuesday morning 5:40 am.