By Godwin Aikigbe
The assistant coach of Nigeria men basketball team, D’Tigers, Abdulrahman Mohammed is unfazed by the threat of hosts Mali in this weekend’s 2019 FIBA World cup qualifier series.
The Nigeria Basketball Federation stated in a tweet on Monday.
Nigeria recently named an 18-player preliminary squad for Group B first leg games holding from February 23-25 in Bamako, Mali.
While the former African champions kept five players from last year’s FIBA AfroBasket – where they claimed a second-place finish – they added Ben Uzoh and Michael Gbinije, two members of the continental championship winning team from 2015.
Nigeria will take on hosts Mali, Uganda and Rwanda in an attempt to secure a place in the 12-team second round of the African Qualifiers.
Michael Efevberha, a prolific scorer who last represented Nigeria at FIBA AfroBasket 2009, is also part of the preliminary squad.
They will have the firepower of their top three scorers from last year’s AfroBasket in the form of Ike Diogu, Ikenna Iroegbu, and Ikechukwu Nwamu.
Nigeria head coach Alex Nwora is confident his team can qualify to the 12-team second round: “We have a good chance of qualifying from the Group for the next round and players that are actively playing in their clubs who are available are those invited to represent Nigeria. The key is that we have a formidable team that will sail through. Our job is to go to Mali and win,” he told FIBA.com.
Nigeria open their campaign against Uganda on February 23. A day later, they will go up against Rwanda before facing Mali on February 25.
At stake in the African Qualifiers are five tickets on offer for the continent’s countries to reach the first-ever 32-team FIBA Basketball World Cup taking place in China from August 30-September 15, 2019.