D’Tigers captain Olumide Oyedeji says the men’s national basketball team are not afraid of their group opponents at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
D’Tigers are in Group B alongside hosts Brazil and London 2012 Olympics silver medallists, Spain, Argentina and Lithuania, while one of the winners from the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July will complete the five-team roster.
“It’s a tough group; tougher than Group A. But for me, impossibility is nothing. They have the same chances as we have; they will have same five players on the courts at the same time like us. It’s nothing special. We just have to be discipline. All of us play professionally and we are ready,” the 35-year-old centre said.
Oyedeji added that having achieved a relative success in recent times, which included qualifying for their first ever Olympic Games in 2012 and also being crowned Afrobasket champions in 2015, D’Tigers had become a force to reckon with in global basketball.
He said, “It’s great to achieve these records (qualifying for Olympics and winning 2015 Afrobasket) but it’s not going to make any difference if you don’t do what you are supposed to do. In London 2012 we were among the best 12 teams in the world; that’s a great achievement. And for us to be the first African team to qualify from the (Olympic)qualifiers is another feat.
“Right now, we are going to Rio as the African champions; we are better now and we are no longer rookies. We have experience under our belt. Before now, we were underdogs but now I believe we are a powerhouse and we are going to Rio on a mission, which is to be medal contenders and not just participants.”
The Nigerian side were mauled 156-73 by USA at the London Games, but the former Orlando Magic star came to the defence of the team, saying the result didn’t make D’Tigers a bad team.
He added, “That just happened; there was nothing we could do when someone was shooting three points over and over. I was at the press conference and the coach said, ‘in my 35 years as a professional coach, I’ve never seen a day like this in my life.’ But the next game, they (USA) only won against Lithuania by five points. So, there are games like that. Just look at Brazil against Germany at the 2014 World Cup. You want to tell me that Brazil is that bad to get beaten 7-1 by the Germans? There are some days like that.”