Exhibition basketball games ahead of the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo have wrapped and teams will now have to finalise rosters ahead of next week’s tip-off.
The undeniable breakout stars of basketball have been Nigeria’s national team. The current roster includes 16 players, eight of which are active players in the National Basketball Association.
The team only lost one of their three exhibition games this past week, losing to Australia (ranked third in men’s international standings) by a blowout 39 points — a disappointing result after their first two showings.
They beat Argentina (ranked fourth) 94-71 in their second game and beat the United States 90-87 in their first game.
The win was significant because Nigeria is ranked 22nd and the US is ranked first internationally, yes, but it was also significant because of the humiliating 83-point defeat Nigeria took at their hands during the 2012 Olympics. Additionally, last week’s win was the first time an African country beat the US in men’s international basketball play.
Both teams’ rosters are obviously different almost a decade later, particularly the NBA talent that the Nigerian team now has — an advantage they clearly lacked before.
And although the win has no tangible ramifications for either team, it made shockwaves across the basketball world for how it signified huge improvement and a new era for Nigeria. On the other more sinister side, it highlighted the US’ imperfect roster construction and poor effort.
What the win over the US and Argentina should bring to the world’s attention, though, is that the days of looking down at teams outside of the US, Spain, France and other perennial performers, and particularly African countries, are on their way out.
Anyone paying attention to the evolution of basketball over the past few years will know that international play is influencing the NBA and that global skill levels are incrementally balancing out.
Team Nigeria’s recent performances are an example of that and how they perform in consequential upcoming games will continue to build on the development and growth of African basketball.
Over the course of three games, Gabe Nnamdi Vincent averaged 10.7 points, Josh Okogie 8.0 and Precious Achiuwa averaged 7.3.
Points, assists and rebounds for the three exhibitions were as follows for the NBA players:
Precious Achiuwa: 3-7-0, 12-7-3, 7-6-1
Chimezie Metu: 6-4-0, 10-2-1, 5-6-2
Jahlil Okafor: DNP, 15-7-0, 7-5-1
Josh Okogie: 4-3-3, 10-4-0, 10-0-0
KZ Okpala: 0-2-0, 9-1-3, DNP
Miye Oni: 6-3-2, 5-5-0, 3-0-2
Gabe Nnamdi Vincent: 21-2-4, 6-2-1, 5-0-2
Head coach Mike Brown will now have to further cut his roster down to 12 before official games begin next week. D’Tigers’ first game will be against Australia on July 25.
Rewatch the highlights against Team USA: