Nigerian-born female basketball ace, Monica Okoye is relishing her membership of Japan’s national women’s basketball team that got to the final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Heading into the ultimate clash with Tam USA on Saturday, Okoye admitted it was a heroic moment for her and her colleagues, as they made the best of home advantage and partisan support to dust France in the semi-finals.
Megasportsarena.com reports that just reaching the semi-finals was a first for Japan, who made the best of their fifth Olympics and they placed eighth at the 2016 Rio Games.
Their semi-final clash with France was a rematch of the Olympic opener for both teams that Japan won 74-70, before 19-year-old Monica, whose older brother Louis Rui Okoye plays professional baseball for Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan, helped defeat Nigeria as well.
The semi-final battle between The Land of The Rising and France was not as close as their opening group game had been, expectedly so, but Japan took control in the second quarter once the 3-pointers started falling.
Japan finished 11-of-22 from 3-point range. When France tried to defend the long shots, Okoye and the Japanese players continued to make cuts to the basket and running past French defenders.
Okoye and her teammates from Japan improved to 6-1 all-time against France, including 3-0 in the Olympics, while their only loss against the same opponent was in the semi-finals of the 1994 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Championship.
Yuki Miyazawa had 14 points for Japan, which had 10 players score against France. Rui Machida came into the game leading the tournament averaging 12.8 assists; she set the Olympic record with 18.
Interestingly, after defeating France on the first day, The Japs made United States sweat, before the Americans eventually won 86-69, but they had to fight really hard until the third quarter to get their second victory.
With an intense defense that forced eleven defeats for the Americans and a great early success in their fields which was then diluted, the Japanese team put the Americans to work.
Supported by their powerful internal play, led by A’ja Wilson with a ‘double double’ of 20 points and 10 rebounds and Brittney Griner.
The hosts scored 6 triples from 10 in the first period and overturned the electronics with three last-minute hits: two by Okoye and one of Saori Miyazaki for a surprising 28-30 quarter-final ticket, following which they made it all the way to the final.
In the thick of Japan’s Tokyo 2020 women’s basketball heroics is Okoye, born February 7, 1998, who stars for Denso Iris Club and participated at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, but now her vision has gone further than the minimal.
The half Japanese-half Igbo-Nigerian is equally happy with her ability to overturn the commonly held view among basketball faithful and pundits that she is a ‘half-player,’ as the Blasian star says she keeps working hard to be a rising power in the professional and international circuits.
Okoye, who has also captained the national team, submitted: “My coach told me I was talented, but I had no confidence. I really didn’t want to stand out. I pretended I was a bad player.
“I saw different mixed-race players performing well. For the first time, I thought, ‘I’ve got to lead this team.’
“Today I see my ‘difference’ as my power. I see the possibilities of accomplishing things because I am different. I reach for the goal that is only possible for me to reach.”