LAGOS (FIBA Africa Champions Cup for Women) – First Bank guard Nkechi Akashili has always made call-ups for the Nigeria national team D’ Tigress playing her role in getting qualification for major championships.
From her U18 days, Akashili established herself as a force to reckon.
"First Bank is ready to make the difference this time around because we want the trophy.” - Akashili
She has been a dependable player for the various local teams – Dolphins, First Deepwater and now First Bank - she played for and often emerging highest scorer, MVP and making the best five most times.
At FIBA AfroBasket Women 2015 in Cameroon, the 26-year-old guard was a member of the Nigerian squad that won bronze and punched a ticket for the country to play at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Nantes, France.
She looked forward to being in France with her mates and when on 15 May 2016 a 25-player preliminary squad was released for a training camp in Abuja ahead of the qualifiers, Akashili was included.
When the first cut was made, she also was still on the list and dreamt of how she would give her best to help the team get her second Olympic appearance after Athens 2004.
But, that did not happen as she was affected by the last cut of the national team coaches headed by Scott Nnaji. Her dream simply came crashing like a pack of cards.
However, she has refused to give up on her desire to be that key player for Nigeria and she believes she won’t need to wait for too long to attain that goal.
“Ordinarily, I should be disturbed and worried that I was cut at the last minute heading for the Olympic qualifiers in France but I have since realised that in sports it’s either you make the team or you’re out of it. And in a game like basketball what you take at the end of the day is a win or a loss,” she said.
Akashili felt she had to swallow the bitter pill after she was dropped but that instead of ruminating over it, she rather saw it as a challenge to get better in her game.
“I felt sad that I was not part of the team but had to put myself together to keep moving. The exclusion has not changed my ambition to be better in my game and become a force in the national team.
“As a young player, I still have many years ahead of me in the game barring injuries and I can only get better if I leave yesterday behind and focus on the present and the future. The national team still needs me and I am willing to contribute my quota when the time comes.”
Akashili, who is in Mozambique for the FIBA ACCW with First Bank, says she would give her best to see her team claim the trophy at the end of the championship.
Though she realises that it would be a tall task for her team, Akashili notes that they would give the championship their best shot.
“We don’t expect to have it easy with the teams coming to Mozambique as many have beefed up their squads with players from Europe and America. Every teams' target now is winning the champions’ trophy and the fight would be fierce. First Bank is ready to make the difference this time around because we want the trophy.”