After finishing 5th in two consecutive editions (2007 and 2009) in Angola and Libya Nigeria took a decisive step to redress its placement on the African continent going into the just concluded 2011 Special edition of the continent’s biggest basketball showpiece as the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) decides to jetision the continuation of foreign tacticians for home-grown coach to prosecute its set objective.
The lot of who to coach the team to Madagascar fell on the country most successful coach Ayo Bakare who was given the mandate of either qualifying the country for the London 2012 Olympic or improve on the country standing at the Afrobasket.
Coach Bakare who has less than 10 days to raise a team set out for one of the most difficult tast but declared emphatically before the team depart Lagos, Nigeria on August 14 that the tast is indeed enomous but he gave assurance that Nigeria will finish among the top four at the end of the keenly contested Afrobasket on August 28 at the Palais des Sport Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Nigeria contigent made up of twelve players, three coaches, accompanying referee and team doctor landed in Antananarivo in the wee hour of August 15 like an ophan as no official from the world biggest black nation nor from the federation were with the team as experienced by other countries participating in the championship.
Drawn in group-A alongside host Madagascar, Mozambique and Mali, Coach Bakare and his team settle down quickly and ready for the jump-ball on August 17 against Mali whom it defeated with ease, Nigeria dominated the group as it won it remaining two games against Mozambique on August 19 and host Madagascar on August 21.
After finishing top of group-A Nigeria was pitched against group-B fourth placed team Tchad and without much challenge from the new comer to the FIBA Africa Championship for Men it decision Chad without much-a-do in the Eight Final Round on August 23 thus making it to the quarter finals against Central Africa Republic where it has it first major challenge as the FIBA Africa Zone-4 side gave the Coach Bakare led Nigeria technical crew it first scare in the championship a gave it managed to win by 8 points margin of 94-86 points.
Nigeria hope of picking the continent sole direct ticket to London was however dashed by former champion Angola in the semi finals after a great start the Nigeria team cave in towards the end of the explosive duel with Angola losing by 68-76 points but reminded that it could still fight for an Olympic ticket Nigeria decided to go all out against 2009 runner-up Cote d’Ivoire in the losers final eventually winning by 77-67 points to pick the third spot, a position the president of the Nigeria federation Tijjani Umar says it is satisfactory and gave the players and their handlers a path on the back.
Umar told www.madagascar2011.fiba.com that yes the road to ressugence was difficult giving the preparation and motivation of the team but the country is indeed proud of the achievement of the team in Madagascar.
The NBBF president says the federation will go back to the drawing board and ensure that the team start preparation early for the FIBA Playoffs that will take place in a yet to be announced venue and date.
The playoffs will have twelve countries from Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe and Oceania battling for the three available spot.