There was a reality check in the loss to Australia also in an exhibition match before the Olympics. Still, the squad with some NBA players had garnered enough interest from Nigerians.
Three consecutive defeats at the Olympic Games against Germany, France and Italy did not dampen the mood. Despite the disappointing performance in Tokyo, there was still that optimism following the progress the D’Tigers had made over the past five years.
That sentiment changed after Nigeria’s 80-68 loss to Uganda in a quarter-final qualifier at the 2021 AfroBasket in Kigali, Rwanda.
With his loss, the D’Tigers were eliminated from AfroBasket.
What didn’t go well?
NBA Coach-Led Team Mike Brown started the tournament brilliantly. Although impoverished due to the absence of players based in the NBA and Europe, the D’Tigers still had plenty to beat Mali in their first game and beat Kenya in the second.
After failing to secure first place in the group, which ensures automatic qualification for the quarter-finals, Nigeria faced Uganda in a qualifying match which they lost on Monday.
The loss showed the real quality of the D’Tigers’ very inexperienced team. Looking back, their first two wins have covered the cracks, or so it seems now.
After the first two games, their shooting conversion rate declined while their free throw shooting was abysmal in all of their games.
Against Uganda, the D’Tigers were just nine of 18 on the free throw line, failing to get valuable points.
What does the future hold?
Coach Brown has been applauded for his commitment since taking over from the D’Tigers in late 2019.
But his future is now uncertain following the release of D’Tigers from AfroBasket 2021. If he remains in his post, he will have to reshuffle his backroom staff, with Alex Nwora leave as an assistant coach.
If Brown leaves, it remains to be seen who will draw NBA stars to the D’Tigers setup as he did during his short stint and raises so many uncertainties ahead of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. 2023.