LAGOS (FIBA AfroBasket Women 2017) - Upe Atosu has become one of Nigeria's best home-based players in recent years and, in the build-up to this year's FIBA AfroBasket Women, the 23-year-old continues to set high goals with her national team.
While it's been 12 years since Nigeria last won a continental title, Atosu feels her generation can change things around.
"I am not giving up on going to the Olympics with my country. At 23, I still have a long way to go in the game not minding the opposition." - Atosu
While reviewing her performance of the 2016 season, the 1.65m guard - who was instrumental to First Bank's 3rd-place finish at the FIBA Africa Champions Cup for Women last month in Mozambique - said she would beat her chest proudly for a wonderful run.
Having played at AfroBasket Women 2015 in Cameroon, where Nigeria came in third, and at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Atosu said preparing adequately for big tournaments is important.
"Our preparation was late and given what was at stake, all the other teams came very prepared. We gave it a good shot but went out on technical grounds," she explained. "That's a lesson we've learnt the hard was and I hope that we next the opportunity comes knocking we won’t be caught napping.
"I am not giving up on going to the Olympics with my country. At 23, I still have a long way to go in the game not minding the opposition."
Although Nigerian foreign-based players are often the choice of coaches given the number of games they are involved in, Atosu said she is at home with any player that is invited to the national team for selection.
"I don't worry about such issues because, for me, my job is to give my best at all times not minding who else is playing my position," she reasoned. "I will always work to make a difference and have a place in the team on merit," she said.
"I respect my colleagues and the coaches' decisions on choice of players but I am not ready to bark down when it comes to the game. Only injury at one point or the other as is normal in every player's career can affect my delivery. I may not be the best but I ensure I make myself count."
At the national championship level - where she has helped restore First Bank's dominance - the former First Deepwater of Lagos player counts her blessings.
"From the national championship in Nigeria to the FIBA Africa Zone 3 Championship held in Togo, my club had a successful outing winning at both levels. But the absence of Dolphins in Lome left us not feeling the real heat of competition," said Atosu.
"We had looked forward to playing them but it turned out they failed to show up for reasons best known to them. Their absence really affected us because we didn't get the kind of push we needed ahead of the finals in Mozambique.
"That notwithstanding we don't intend to let our guard down because staying at the top is the bigger challenge as every other team’s set goal is how to dethrone us at all levels. As a player and vice-captain of the First Bank team, I will continue to give my best as well as encourage my teammates to be at their best."