Nigerian women’s basketball national team, D’Tigress point guard, Ezinne Kalu has showered encomiums on the squad for picking a ticket to this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, but added that they have to keep working hard in order to do well at the forthcoming outing, megasportsarena.com reports.
Kalu enthused that D’Tigress did well to pick the ticket in Belgrade, Serbia last week, where she reasoned that they put up an incredible performance to beat Mozambique, while also doing well in defeats by world number one, USA and the competition’s host country.
However, after helping D’Tigress book the ticket to Tokyo last Saturday, Kalu admitted that the players and their coaches must now push themselves further to excel at the global level, as she reckons that the Olympics will be just a tough as they found the FIBA Women’s World Cup.
Going to Tokyo 2020 will make it exactly 16 years since D’Tigress last made it to the Olympics and, with their male colleagues, D’Tigers also having booked their ticket from the FIBA Men’s World Cup in China, Kalu is excited already that will all have fun in The Land of The Rising Sun and then go all out to make Nigeria and Nigerians proud of them both.
She pointed out that D’Tigress already made a statement at the qualifying tournament in Serbia against the hosts and the world champions, USA, who were rattled and almost lost to Nigeria in the final game, but eventually had to dig really deep to carry the day against a very determined and stubborn Nigerian team, who she says will give even twice as much during the 2020 Games.
Kalu enthused: “This is extremely huge! Not just for Nigerian basketball and we the players, but for Africa as a whole. When we all found out that we qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games we were super excited and overwhelmed with emotions. This was something that we had worked so hard for and everything was finally falling into place.
“We are going to the Olympics to represent a nation of people who have always been forced to keep quiet, stay in the shadows and not show the excellence and talents we possess. So many Africans are breaking barriers throughout all sports.
“With the women and men basketball teams both qualifying, this gives us an opportunity to really showcase what Nigeria has to offer to the world. The game plan against USA was to give 1,000% and leave everything we had out on the floor. Be aggressive with them, make them uncomfortable, play our game, set the tone, but most importantly HAVE FUN!!!
“Although prior to the game we had already qualified for the Olympic games, this game was important for us to show what we could do against a team of that calibre. We were so close to beating the number 1 team in the world. Does that mean we (Nigeria) could be number 1?
“I mean anything is possible, but playing against them the way we did showed that we don’t back down and we are up for the challenge. In order to be the best you have to play against the best and do well. Losing by over 20 points at the world cup, then losing by only 5 points in the Olympic qualifying tournament proves that we are getting better. But we still have a lot of work to do and we are all willing to put the time and effort into it.
“Knocked down the necessary shots and made the right plays in crunch time. I think we could have been a little more patient with the ball towards the end to solidify the lead but when excitement kicks in and certain calls are made it’s not much you can do but still try to push. But things like that happen. It’s the game.”