by joe apu
The series of upsets recorded at the just concluded Afrobasket 2021 qualifiers should serve as a warning signal to Nigeria’s current dominance in African basketball, says Coach Sanni Ahmed.
According to the coach, who’s head coach of Kano Pillars Basketball Club, no team should be taken for granted as the lowly rated basketball nations are getting better by the day.
Coach Ahmed recalled the struggles Nigeria had to face against the ramping South Sudan team and Rwanda calls for caution on the part of Nigeria’s D’Tigers.
“We had new players obviously in our team for the qualifiers and it takes time to blend but there was this arrogance on the part of the players and we saw that South Sudan kept it close all through our second game despite our 75-70 win at the end of the. “Against Rwanda, we trailed for two quarters before rallying back to win 64-51. The so-called smaller nations are not sleeping and are working hard to be relevant. As such, we can’t afford to be complacent in our games no matter the opposition. Let’s take the case of Kenya that recorded an upset against former African champions Angola 74-73 for instance and you will you will understand that no nation is sleeping. By that slim win over Angola, the Kenyans are back to Afrobasketafter 28 years. You can imagine what it means for them. “
Coach Ahmed, also a former national team coach who had led Kano Pillars to several local and international conquests, noted that Nigeria as the top ranked team in Africa cannot afford to toy with its reputation as every team sees her as a target that must be challenged at all cost.
Reacting to the call for the inclusion of domestic players into the final roster for the Afrobasket 2021 final round, Coach Ahmed affirmed support for it but warned that it must be purely based on merit.
“I am an advocate for the inclusion of domestic players in our national teams but the players must deserve their places. It’s clear that we’ve not had the Premier Basketball League in the last three years and this makes it difficult for the domestic players but there’s is no harm in giving them a chance to prove themselves before the coaches.
He pointed out that he understands the cost implications of bring an all foreign-based players noting that where there are deserving players from the domestic scene, it would go a long way for the Nigeria Basketball Federation.
“African basketball is quite different from what many of our foreign based players are used to. I can tell you that the players are not just wasting time being in one place, so many of them have been is states camps for the postponed National Sports Festival and have been playing other competitions as well. It would be nice to just give them a chance because that is all they aspire for,” Coach Ahmed pleaded.
Nigeria finished top of Group D with a 3-0 record as was the case in the November Window played in Kigali in 2020.