ABUJA (AfroBasket 2015) - Nigeria's newly-appointed head coach Will Voigt announced his 26-player preliminary squad on Tuesday in Abuja, and Olaseni 'Shane' Lawal could make his national team debut at AfroBasket 2015.
The 2.08m center is among a list of big names in the Nigerian squad that includes Ike Diogu, Portland Trail Blazers new recruit Al Farouq Aminu and former Los Angeles Clippers forward Ekpe Udoh.
Nigeria, who have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Tunisia, Central African Republic (CAF) and debutants Uganda, are among the frontrunners to win this year's event, which serves as a qualifier tournament for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
With the exceptions of Gani Lawal and Richard Oruche - who got injured in the tournament opener against Mali - the nine leading players who featured for Nigeria two years ago in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, have been invited to battle for places in Voigt's team.
At AfroBasket 2013, Nigeria crashed out in the Quarter-Finals following a nail-biting 64-63 loss against Senegal.
The Nigerians would go on to finish seventh.
A thorough look at Voigt's selections, and it becomes clear that the Western Africans have several options when it comes to their big men. Despite his poor free-throw percentage (50 percent), Lawal looks to be a realistic pick for the American coach.
This past season, Lawal was so good that his performances could not go unnoticed, after he helped his Banco di Sardegna team win three major domestic trophies, including Cup of Italy, Supercup and Lega Basket Serie A title.
The Nigerian-American averaged 9.5 points and 10 rebounds in 47 league games and has just signed a two-year with Spain’s giants FC Barcelona.
Even though Banco di Sardegna finished with a modest 1-9 record in the Euroleague this past season, Lawal made sure to leave his mark in Europe's top club competition, averaging 9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
The D'Tigers are expected to resume their training camp in Paris, France, before traveling to Tunisia.
Nigeria preliminary squad for AfroBasket 2015: Deji Akindele, Akingbala Akinlolu, Al-Farouq Aminu, Alade Aminu, Ike Diogu, Jason Ebie, Chinemelu Elonu, Micheal Eric, Michael Gbinije, Stanley Gumut, Edo Karachi, Olaseni ’Shane’ Lawal, Derrick Obasohan, Chris Obepka, Ikechukwu Ofoegbu, Andy Ogide, Chamberlain Oguchi, Stanley Okoye, Jamal Olasewere, Olumide Oyedeji, Ekpe Udoh, Michael Umeh, Abubakar Usman, Ben Uzoh, Abdul Yahaya and Talib Zanna.