BARCELONA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019) - One thing you have to know about Nigeria's emotional leader Shane Lawal is that he not only plays big, but thinks big.
He'd wanted to make such plays at his first Olympics in Rio de Janeiro but after just three minutes against Argentina, Lawal went down with a knee injury that knocked him out of the tournament.
The disappointment lingers, but Lawal is already thinking of ways for Nigeria to be a better basketball nation.
For example, he wants the city where he spent the first eight years of his life before moving to Michigan in the United States, Lagos, to host FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
"Why not?" he said to FIBA.com. "It's a great city. I want the World Cup in Lagos. 2023! Let's make it happen!"
"We've got a lot of guys with vested interests in making basketball bigger not just in Nigeria, but in Africa. That would be a great way to do it. Like South Africa for the World Cup (2010), it would bring so much basketball to the continent. It would be awesome."
"When you play for the land that you were born in and where your parents were born, it pays itself at the end of the day." - Lawal
Lawal and Nigeria have every reason to think big on the court. They've become the most exciting, and successful team on the African continent. D'Tigers, FIBA AfroBasket winners for the first time last year, climbed nine spots in the FIBA World Ranking to No. 16 after the Olympics.
They leapfrogged Tunisia, who rose two spots to No. 21, and Angola, who fell eight spots to No. 23. Nigeria's ranking is impressive, yet it's not the one that Lawal wants.
"We all know the FIBA Rankings is based on what you've done over a period of years," he said. "If you just look at what we've done the last two years, the talent level and the continuity that we're trying to build, we feel we're a top 10 team in the world. We wholeheartedly believe that, no matter what anybody else thinks about us, technical wise and all of this other crap."
For Nigeria to occupy the place that Lawal craves, they will first need to certain things to happen. For starters, they can't leave something like a player's insurance unresolved for so long that it leads to his withdrawal before a major tournament.
Portland Trail Blazer Al-Farouq Aminu pulled out of the squad late in the Olympic preparations because his insurance was not in place. Other issues served as unwanted distractions.
They also need a little luck. Had Lawal been fit and played substantial minutes, the team may have gotten more than the one victory over a good Croatia team.
"I would have given my other leg after just to have played those four games, man," he said. "I worked so hard, so hard for stuff like this. This is what it's all about it."
Lawal loves playing for his country.
"When you play for your club, you're playing for money," he said. "You're playing for other people. You're a mercenary.
"But when you play for the land that you were born in and where your parents were born, it pays itself at the end of the day. And to do something to help my country become better, to have the opportunity, it hurts not to be able to help your brothers, it hurts."
What difference might Lawal have made in Group B where Nigeria also played Lithuania, Spain and Brazil?
"Shane from Sassari would destroy a lot of the bigs at the Olympics because as great as they were, they weren't mobile," he said. Dinamo Sassari is where he played in the 2014-15 season.
"And it's no disrespect to them," Lawal said. "You can go through each one of the five teams that we played and not see too many mobile guys that can box me out, can run the floor with me, can keep me off the glass. A lot of issues that we had, I feel like I could have helped us a lot."
It stung Lawal to hear predictions that Nigeria would struggle in Rio and not make it to the knockout round.
"That's what hurts my heart so much," he said. "I really feel like 4-1 was not out of the picture for us."
"I don't think anyone thought we would go to the Olympics and win anything," he said. "Everyone expected us to finish sixth (in Group B) and no one expected us to win a game.
"What those guys did with what we had, you can be nothing but proud. It hurts because we can be better.
"If you look at our team with Farouq and look at what happened in Rio, why can't we be top 10 in the world?