Nigeria on course to becoming top women’s basketball nation

Since 2017, Nigeria have won back-to-back Women’s AfroBasket titles, taken part in the Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2018

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Following a steady rise in the world basketball rankings over the last three years, Nigeria women’s basketball forward Evelyn Akhator believes the African nation can compete with the best on the globe.

Since 2017, Nigeria have won back-to-back Women’s AfroBasket titles, taken part in the Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2018, and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

In fact, this Nigeria team have remained unbeaten in Africa since August 2017. At that point, they were ranked 42nd in the world – and now have risen to 14th on the globe.

Akhator told FIBA.basketball about her ambitions with her talented teammates: “I see Nigeria getting to the top and becoming a top-10 country in basketball.

“Nobody would have thought we would be a top-20 team and now we are number 14 in the world. I only pray that we all achieve that dream of being top of the best very soon.”

Despite the Tokyo Olympics being postponed from July to next year around the same time due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Akhator could not contain her excitement about playing in the quadrennial showpiece event of world sport.

“Who doesn’t want to go to the Olympics? Hearing the word “Olympics” itself was a motivation for us to fight. We were not ready to wait another four years before earning another spot to qualify for the Olympics while the ticket was right in our faces so we had to do what we can to grab it.

“I always believe I would get to the Olympics from the day I started playing for the national team and I am glad it all came to pass. Going to Tokyo has always been my dream considering the fact that I watch lots of Japanese movies and I am excited I will be going there next year by God’s grace.”

With soccer always grabbing the headlines in Nigeria, basketball, and women’s basketball, in particular, would have its work cut out competing with the more popular sports in the country.

“It is really important especially the fact that basketball is not a popular sport in Nigeria as compared to Senegal. It was really important for Nigeria to be on the map again and be known worldwide. Now, teams are scared whenever they hear Nigeria women’s basketball team.

The year ahead, once a play is permitted during the novel coronavirus pandemic, will be another testing period for Nigeria said the 25-year-old Akhator.

“Honestly, I do miss basketball and I am glad to be returning back into doing my basketball workouts next week which I am already making arrangements for although I have just been indoors working out and trying to stay fit, so I do not feel too out of shape when I start basketball workouts.”

“I think playing and listening to my body as well as surrounding myself with positivity will keep me focused. I know the window between the Olympics and the Fiba Women’s AfroBasket is really short but it still will make us stay fully in shape mentally, physically, and also locked into the plays and the team.”

In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo

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