Nigeria’s Josh Okogie needed just one season in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves to establish himself as a defensive specialist and dunking extraordinaire.
On numerous occasions, the high-flying, 20-year-old guard from Lagos made the hardwood his own personal runway, challenged defenders protecting the rim and threw down vicious slams.
Now Okogie is set to put his talents on display at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in Wuhan, China, where he and D’Tigers are about to launch their latest drive for glory.
“I am so excited and am very much looking forward to the start of the competition. I’m so proud to be wearing the green jersey, to be representing Nigeria and to show the world that our national team is very competitive,” Okogie said to FIBA.basketball.
“It has been a very intense preparation for the tournament, but we’re ready for the battles to come. We still have a couple of days to get our chemistry at its best, and I know that we all have the same motivation.
“We’re eager to do great things to make our country and fans proud. We are counting the days to get on the court for the first game of the competition; we can feel the excitement in the group and the staff.”
Nigeria have shown in recent years in the big events how good they are. At the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela, the African giants eliminated Greece on the way to clinching a spot in the London Games.
In a very competitive FIBA AfroBasket 2015 in Tunis, Nigeria won the title and then played at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. They were hugely impressive in the African Qualifiers for the World Cup.
In the First Round, Okogie and Co will take on Argentina, Russia and Korea. Nigeria must finish among the top two in that pool, Group B, in order to advance to the Second Round and meet to the best two sides from a Group A that consists of China, Poland, Venezuela and Cote d’Ivoire.
The top two countries in each of the four Second Round groups will advance to the Quarter-Finals.
“We are mostly focused on ourselves,” Okogie said. “But Argentina has a lot of experience, Russia has a lot of very good players and Korea seems to be solid, too.
“We aren’t scared of anyone, we’re going to start every game to win and have the best record we can and go to the next round. We don’t want our campaign to be over after three games, and we are ambitious. We are so motivated to battle with those three teams to go to the next round, and we’ll put all our energy into every play during every game.”
While Okogie is a newcomer, Nigeria have a lot of experience in the team, especially with veterans like Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu.
“They’re very important for us, having guys like Ike and Al-Farouq is so great,” Okogie said. “They know so much about the game; they have a lot of experience and they give us a lot of very good advice. They played in many tournaments before and they know a lot about how to deal with playing in a competition like the World Cup. But every player is helping a lot.
“The team is very united and the dynamics are positive. We are a team, we play as one. We play for our country; we play to make Nigeria proud.”
Culled from FIBA