LAGOS (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) – In the lead-up to the FIBA AfroBasket 2017, we take a closer look at all 16 participating teams competing in the championship running from September 8-16 in the co-host countries of Senegal and Tunisia.
Nike FIBA World Ranking: 16th
Last participation at FIBA AfroBasket: 2015 (African champions)
Best results in the history of FIBA AfroBasket: Champions of FIBA AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia with a 6-1 winning record.
Qualified for FIBA AfroBasket 2017: Automatic qualification as defending champions
History/Qualification: Basketball in Nigeria started in the late 50's by a man named Walid Zabadne. He taught and showed Nigerians how to play the game of basketball in the only basketball court in the country at the time located in the Syrian Club in Lagos.
Once the basketball federation in Nigeria was established, Zabadne would take these young players around Africa to various tournaments. He eventually became the president of the Nigerian Basketball Federation and is known as the father of basketball in Nigeria.
Nigeria's national basketball Federation joined FIBA in 1964. Recently, Nigerian teams have enjoyed success, due to an increasing amount of talents from Nigeria as well as an orchestrated recruitment of American college and professional players of Nigerian descent.
A team dominated by Nigerian-Americans qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2006, marking only the second time in the country's history that they qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Nigeria took part in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2006 in Japan. They were drawn in Group A with Argentina, France, Lebanon, Serbia and Montenegro, and Venezuela. They surprisingly finished third in Group A, then were narrowly defeated by Germany in the Round of 16.
Overall they finished 14th, as they achieved the same record as the defending world champion Serbia and Montenegro.
Five years ago, Nigeria became the first African team to have qualified for the Olympic Games via a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
At the 2012 Olympics Games, Nigeria finished the Group Phase with a 1–4 record, with their victory coming against then-African champions Tunisia.
They repeated their Olympic appearance four years later in Rio de Janeiro.
Nigeria are currently considered to be one of the best national basketball teams in Africa, along with Angola and Senegal.
Last year, Nigeria became the highest climber (eight places) in in the NIKE FIBA World Rankings.
In 2015, Nigeria emerged as the FIBA AfroBasket winners beating 11-time Africa champions Angola in the Final.
Outlook: Tunisia, one of the two sites of this year's FIBA AfroBasket, has become a historical place for Nigerian basketball. After all, it was in the North African country where Nigerians were crowned African champions for the very first time two years ago.
However, the most frequently asked question among Nigerian basketball followers is whether or not they can win back-to-back FIBA AfroBasket titles.
Even though Nigeria head for Tunisia with a completely different team from the one that won their first-ever African crown two years ago, they will look to defend their title.
USA-based Alex Nwora has recently been appointed as the team's head coach, replacing Will Voigt. The Nigerian play-caller brought with him, six foreign-based players.
The contribution from foreign-based Nigerians has been key to Nigeria's success in recent years, and this time around it might not be different.
Under the watchful of Nwora, Nigeria have spent the entire two-week training camp in Nigeria.
Key player: Team captain Ike Diogu is the only player to return from the 2015 winning team.
Rising Star: Point Guard Kelechi Anuna joins the team as one of the most promising players on the squad. He is capable of playing both guard spots adequately.
He uses his size, strength, and ball handling ability to run the offense, create for others, and create an open shot for himself.
Possible outcome: Drawn in Group A along with Mali, DR Congo, and Cote d’ Ivoire, the Nigerians are clearly favorite to advance to the Final Phase.