Nigeria’s men’s basketball national team, D’Tigers’ former captain, Olumide Oyedeji has added his voice to growing hope for a historic outing by the Super Eagles at this year’s World Cup, as slam-dunk icon believes the squad has what it takes to shock the globe.
Oyedeji, who is now also a member of the board of Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) further said he believes the Eagles can cause major upsets at Russia 2018 if they play with confidence.
The Nigerian side are the lowest-ranked in Group D where they face Croatia, Argentina and Iceland, but Oyedeji is backing his compatriots to qualify from the pool and make further progress, provided they get their act right from the word go.
Oyedeji, who started as a young footballer but reached the heights of his sporting career in basketball, playing in the NBA and several other big leagues in the world, says the edge of youth could also be an advantage for the Eagles.
The former Seattle Supersonics centre, who captained D’Tigers to conquer the 2015 FIBA AfroBasket title, also opined that the right blend of youth and experience will take Nigeria in the right direction to excel in Russia.
“One of the key things in sport is that opponents respect you more when they realise you are strong.
“If the Super Eagles beat Croatia in their opening game, then their confidence will grow and they will be able to face the other teams without fear.
“With the right amount of confidence – without being arrogant or cocky – the team will go places.
“As a sportsman of many years, I also know that dedication and discipline are key ingredients for success.
“As a matter of fact, I’d rather have a not-so-talented team of players totally dedicated to the cause than a talented group that lacks commitment and discipline.
“I hope the Super Eagles in Russia will be 23 focused, dedicated, determined soldiers willing to give their country their all.
“I also hope they have leaders in the team who will lead with humility and set examples for the others.
“I like the make-up of the squad. It’s a young team with some players like Mikel Obi, Odion Ighalo and Ogenyi Onazi who have valuable experience.
“With proper coaching and tactical planning, they look capable of achieving big things. Let the technical crew break down the opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.
“(They should) settle on the best approach, work out how to stop the likes of Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria for instance, and we can shock the world.
“Never say never with this team. Afterall, who knew Ghana would be on the verge of the semi-finals in 2010?
“I’m sure nobody tipped them to go as far as they did, and the Super Eagles can go even farther,” Oyedeji pointed out.