Several weeks ago, just after the Golden State Warriors in the NBA defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2014/2015 Championship, Festus Ezeli hinted at the possibility of representing Nigeria at the 2015 Afrobasket in Tunisia.
The 6’11 centre out of Vanderbilt University gave strong impressions on wearing the green-white-green uniform for the Nigerian D’Tigers in August when the country participates at the Afrobasket Championship to be held in Tunisia.
Ezeli’s delight on playing for Nigeria, if given the opportunity, was captured in a report published on FIBA’s website late March.
“It is a big honour to be playing for your country and I am looking forward to it. “I have a lot of pride in my origins. I think that it is awesome that we have so many guys of Nigerian descent in the NBA.
“I am trying to get Andre Iguodala to come to Nigeria with me someday. It is a great place, a great country and it has a lot of potential.” – Ezeli
As such, it was rather a surprise to some that the NBA Champion who was the first big man off the bench for the Warriors and a key member of the unit that won the championship was not included on the list when it was made public this past Tuesday.
Basketball pundits whom Basketball Within Borders spoke to suggested the fact that the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) does not provide adequate insurance to its players, if any, hence it was proper for some foreign-based players to stay away even though they might be willing to play for the country. Due to the way some NBA contracts are structured, a player may risk voiding his contract if he gets injured while on national assignment.
Former D’Tigers coach, Sani Ahmed, buttressed the problem the NBBF has regarding providing adequate insurance for NBA players in the same report on FIBA’s website: gave this insight regarding the issue of insurance for players in the same report on FIBA’s website: “The problem is that the insurance you pay when you want to get these NBA players is very high.”
Perhaps, that was the same reason it was impossible to attract Victor Oladipo, another Nigerian in the NBA, to play for the D’Tigers in spite of moves by the NBBF to recruit him to the national team earlier this year.
Despite the challenge in providing adequate insurance for Nigerian NBA players, that has not prevented Al-Farouq Aminu from returning to the national team squad. Aminu who has just inked a new deal with a new team, the Portland Trailblazers, was a strong factor for the Dallas Mavericks last playoffs. Aminu was a member of the D’Tigers’ team that participated at Nigeria’s first male basketball Olympic debut at the London 2012 Games.
Another player from the NBA will be joining Nigeria for the first time on national assignment. Ekpe Udoh, former Los Angeles Clippers centre who is currently a free agent is also on the list of players that will be training in preparation for the Afrobasket Games.
The complete list of players invited to training camp for the D’Tigers includes: Deji Akindele, Akingbala Akinlolu, Al-Farouq Aminu, Alade Aminu, Ike Diogu, Jason Ebie, Chinemelu Elonu, Micheal Eric, Michael Gbinije, Stanley Gumut, Edo Karachi, Olaseni ’Shane’ Lawal, Derrick Obasohan, Chris Obepka, Ikechukwu Ofoegbu, Andy Ogide, Chamberlain Oguchi, Stanley Okoye, Jamal Olasewere, Olumide Oyedeji, Ekpe Udoh, Michael Umeh, Abubakar Usman, Ben Uzoh, Abdul Yahaya and Talib Zanna.