WLOCLAWEK (2016 Rio Olympics) - History shows us that Africa's teams have struggled to make an impact at Olympic Games. No side from the continent has reached the podium.
But history also shows us that there never been an African team like the current version of Nigeria. This is a side that has strength at all positions. There is depth. There is good coaching.
A member of that side four years ago, Chamberlain Oguchi, was the main man last year. Had he had not been a constant source of points for the team in Rades, on the outskirts of Tunis, Nigeria would not have reached the top of the AfroBasket podium. He was the best player on the best team and deservedly scooped the honor as tournament MVP.
Oguchi, because he lived the 2012 OQT and Olympic experience with Nigeria, and because of his importance to the cause now, is an ideal person to assess what Friday's draw has done for his team's chances at the Rio de Janeiro Games. Nigeria were drawn in Group B with Argentina, Spain, Lithuania, Brazil and one of the OQT winners.
The dedication and resiliency it took for Nigeria to secure a 2016 Olympic bid by winning the 2015 FIBA AfroBasket Championship says that we are more than up for the challenge. - Oguchi
A guard playing in Poland's top flight with Anwil Wloclawek, Oguchi put on a shooting display in Tunisia last summer that people are still buzzing about in Africa. The 29-year-old had multiple three-pointers in all seven of his team's games.
In arguably their toughest encounter against Senegal, one they won 88-79 after overtime, Oguchi drilled eight shots from beyond the arc.
"Experience is an intangible asset that you can't teach, and I believe our experience having played in the 2012 Olympics is something we can and will use to our advantage," said the 1.98m swingman.
After setting historical benchmarks by qualifying for the 2012 Olympics via the OQT, we weren’t satisfied with our performance in the actual tournament. We now know how it feels to compete at the highest level, on the biggest stage, so our psychological approach will be much different this time around. Proper preparation, as with any successful endeavor, is vital. - Oguchi
It should help seeing familiar foes like Argentina and Lithuania. Oguchi remembers playing them before and what those teams' approaches to the games were like.
"Along with being comprised of very skilled players, Argentina and Lithuania both have the aforementioned experience factor," he said. "Both countries have a prominent basketball history in such events, and are typically comprised of veteran players. This makes them formidable opponents year in and year out. Having said that, it is our goal to contend for one of these medals also."
Just finishing in the top four will be a big accomplishment. That is true for all the Group B teams. But if Nigeria make it to the Quarter-Finals, they would be just two wins away from a medal.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about the crossover from Group Phase to Quarter-Finals," Oguchi said. "It's a dream of any athlete to stand on an Olympic podium to accept an Olympic medal. However, with such a daunting schedule, the only suitable approach will be one day and game at a time."
This is a good moment to be a Nigeria international in basketball like Oguchi. He is closing in on another milestone moment in his career by going to Rio.
Being an Olympic athlete is a rare experience, and one that is gratifying in itself, but the idea of being a two-time Olympian is a feeling that's indescribable. - Oguchi
"It was an honor and privilege to represent my country on such a prestigious platform during the 2012 London Olympics and I plan to again represent Nigeria to the best of my God-given abilities during the Rio 2016 Olympics."
And what about that famous celebration he has after he makes 3-pointers? Is that going to change?
"I look forward to displaying my 'Oguchi Salute' a lot more in Rio 2016," he said.