BY GODWIN AIKIGBE
African champions Nigeria on Wednesday morning departed the shores of the country for Tunisia for the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket Championships holding in Tunis from September 8 through 16.
The D’ Tigers are pitted against Cote d’Ivoire , Mali and DR where to begin title defence against Cote d’Ivoire at on Friday. Congo in Group A and will kick-start campaign against the Ivorians on Friday. He play Mali the next day and will conclude group hostilities against DR Congo on Sunday.
Two years ago, Nigeria upset then-defending champions Angola to win their first-ever African title. Meanwhile, a new Federation board brought in a new coaching team, and the Nigerians will look to defend
Eleven of the twelve players from the 2015 winning team will not play at FIBA AfroBasket 2017.
Head-to-head dating back to 2005: 4-0 against Mali; 1-0 against DR Congo; 6-1 against Cote d’Ivoire
Although Nigeria head to Tunis with a completely new team from 2015, the defending champions emerge with arguably the most talented front court, which could be filled by NBA player Daniel Ochefu of the Washington Wizards as well as Deji Akindele and Akin Akingbala.
Cote d’Ivoire registered their worst result ever in the history of the competition in 2015. Although the former African champions won two of their five games, they claimed a 12th-Place finish.
However, things they head to Tunis visibly more confident, and the return of Mohamed Kone and the addition of Souleyman Diabate represent a morale booster for the ‘Elephants’.
Key absences are; Ismael Ndiaye, Mohamed Lamizana, Pape Phillipe Amagou, and Guy Edi just to mention a few won’t feature in Tunisia.
Head-to-head dating back to 2005: 1-6 against Nigeria; 1-3 against Mali; the Ivorians haven’t faced the DR Congo since 1995.
If available to represent his country for the sixth time at FIBA AfroBasket, Souleyman Diabate could become a game-changer.
A strong start to the tournament against Nigeria is everything Cote d’Ivoire if they are to live up to their expectations of reaching the Final Phase.
Group A: Nigeria, DR Congo, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire
Group B: Angola, CAF, Morocco, Uganda
Group C: Tunisia, Guinea, Rwanda, Cameroon
Group D: Senegal, Mozambique, Egypt , South Africa