BAMAKO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - After leading Nigeria to resounding wins over Uganda (102-86) and Rwanda (108-53) in the country's FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers games on Friday and Saturday, Ike Diogu is already in dreamland over the possibility of leading his team in the June-July window in front of very passionate home fans.
The 6ft 9in (2.06m) center - the only player to score more than 100 points at FIBA AfroBasket 2017 - said the thought of it is wonderful because he and his teammates have never played a competitive game in front of their home fans.
"I can imagine what the atmosphere would be like playing before our home fans. It would be exciting for me and others as well. Most of the time we've played for Nigeria, it's been outside of the country but the idea that the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers could be at home thrills me and I would look forward to it," Diogu said.
Given the passion associated with basketball in Nigeria, Diogu sees the prospect of staging a Qualifiers window there as a great opportunity for players to be around their families.
Turning his attention to the current window of the African Qualifiers, the 34-year-old - who had 19 points and 7 rebounds in Nigeria's defeat of Uganda and followed that up with a dozen points against Rwanda - explained his team did not come to Mali thinking that it would be a stroll in the park.
"No team here is a pushover and that is why we can't afford to lose focus," he cautioned. "Every team in the Qualifiers has the equal opportunity of going through to the next round but as a team, we take it one game at a time.
"Every game is important to us, knowing that our ultimate ambition is getting a ticket for the World Cup in China. It’s not going to be easy but we'll get there."