Exactly 26 days to the tip off of the 2023 FIBA Women`s Afrobasket, the Nigeria Basketball Federation has announced an open tryout in an attempt to select the players that will represent the country in Kigali later this month. This does not speak highly of the country`s preparation ahead of the tournament.
Nigeria`s women national team, D`Tigress, will be seeking to win four African titles in a row, equaling a record currently held by Senegal, having won the Women`s Afrobasket in 2017 (Mali), 2019 (Senegal) and 2021 (Cameroon). Many countries will arrive Kigali with the sole objective of preventing it from happening.
DTigress will face competition from power houses like Senegal, Egypt, Angola, Mali and Cameroon. The country needs to put its best foot forward and prepare as hard as the can to cross the hurdle ahead of them. But it doesn`t seem like the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) understands the gravity of the task ahead.
Barely four weeks to the start of the tournament, the Federation announced the appointment of the Assistant Coach at Stony Brooks University, Coach Rena Wakama as the Head Coach of the women`s basketball team. Coach Wakama once played for the senior national team and for the First Bank Basketball team. She`s not new to the Nigerian basketball terrain.
Her first task will be to put a team together that will represent the country in Kigali. But this might not be as straightforward as it sounds especially with the issue between the Federation and some of the DTigress players. As an aftermath of the decision of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to withdraw the national teams from international tournament last year which caused DTigress to miss the FIBA Women`s World Cup, some of the star players have vowed not to play for the national team ever again.
Yesterday, the Federation announced an open tryout in three locations - Chicago, Lagos and Abuja, to select players to make up the team. This is an attempt by the Federation to get new players for the team but it is also a deviation from the standard practice of scouting players and inviting them to training camp. This looks like a fire brigade approach and does not exude much confidence in the Federation.
The open tryouts will hold in Chicago and National Stadium Lagos on the 8th and 9th of July, and at the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja on the 10th and 11th. After the tryouts, the coaching crew will have about two weeks to announce the final roster and start training camp. It is not certain whether there will be any friendly games before the team heads out to Kigali to defend the Afrobasket title.
It will be a tough one to pull off for the new set of players lead by a new coach.
A total of twelve teams are participating in the Women`s continental tournament and they are grouped into four groups of three teams with Nigeria drawn alongside Egypt and DR Congo. The first-place team qualify directly for the quarterfinals while the other two teams go through a playoff round.
A second-placed team will face off against a third-placed team and vice versa. A knockout system will be used after the preliminary round and the losing teams of the quarterfinals will be playing classification games while the winners will play out the champion.