The Punch

D’tigers going to Olympics to win – Brown

D’tigers coach Mike Brown spoke with journalist­s ahead of Sunday’s friendly win over Team USA. The American spoke on his side’s chances at the Olympics, his players’ commitment and more in the virtual interview monitored by

- KELVIN EKERETE

Your side play Argentina on Tuesday. What are your thoughts about your opponents?

For us, it’s going to be a handful. You look at a guy like Louis Scola. He is 41 or 42, but he’s still a phenomenal player watching these guys on film. He just does everything right and then on top of that, they got a lot of shooting, they pass the ball very well. They play extremely hard, and they’ve been together forever and their coaches are one of the best in the world, so they’re going to give us some problems. But we’re excited to be able to play them in a friendly game, so we get used to that type of talent and skill set on the offensive side of the ball. And then their pace is going to be something new for our guys, not just in the transition on the forecourt, but their pace in the half court is remarkable, it’s ridiculous. So, for us to be able to get a taste of that before going to the Olympics will be good for us.

What are your expectatio­ns for Team Nigeria at the olympics?

We’re not going there just for the experience; the experience is going to be nice. And we’re excited about going there and experienci­ng everything that Tokyo has to offer us. We have the mindset of going to Tokyo to win. We’re not settling, we’re not going to be okay with anything else along the way. And so we’re looking forward to showing, not just people in Nigeria but the people on the continent of Africa, people around the world. There’s a lot of Nigerian talents out there. And this is just a little taste of us coming together because there are a lot more guys that we can bring to the table, that we will in the future.

So, our excitement level is very high to get started in this Olympics the right way.

What impact do you think the good performanc­e of Nigeria’s men and women’s basketball teams at the olympics will mean to the whole of Africa?

It’s huge, and Otis Hughley (D’tigress coach) has done a fantastic job with the women’s team, he’s going to have them ready. And they have an opportunit­y to advance and we feel like we do too. So, I think us playing well in these games can uplift a lot of people, and not just uplift the people in Nigeria, but on the continent of Africa and then on top of that, there are a lot of black people that identify with the continent of Africa. And so, that can help uplift, unite and connect an entire group of people. We welcome that pressure because nobody’s putting more pressure on us or the women’s team than ourselves, but it’s something that we look forward to doing and hopefully accomplish­ing at a high level to make everybody proud.

At the 2012 olympics, Nigeria only won one game, same as rio 2016. Is there any kind of incentive or pressure to do better and banish those past olympic demons in Tokyo?

We have to appreciate the people that laid the foundation down in 2012 and 2016. The likes of Ike Diogu, Al-farouk Aminu, Olumide Oyedeji; those guys laid a strong foundation down for this programme. Back in the day, when they didn’t have as much as attention or resources or anything like that, they played when it was extremely hard. And so, we’re more than appreciati­ve of what they’ve laid down in terms of foundation, and we want to just continue to build on that. So, we don’t want to banish anything, we want to showcase that we want to let those guys know we are proud of what they did back then just getting to the Olympics. And we hope to be able to take that torch and continue moving up so that the next generation that comes out to these players and myself, can continue to just rise up.

You’ve talked about Nigeria winning a medal at the olympics, after practicing with them, do you still think we can?

We went to the Afrobasket qualifiers without practicing. Thanks to the Nigerian government, thanks to the NBBF, we feel good where we are right now. We feel good going into these friendly games. These friendly games will give us an idea of what we need to continue to work on. So, after the friendly games, we’ll go back to the bay, we’ll continue to grind and work and then fly to Tokyo to see what happens, but I’m excited with the group that we have right now in Las Vegas.

What attracted you to Nigeria?

The first thing is Musa Ahmadu-kida, the president of the NBBF. He has done a phenomenal job behind the scene and trying to change the course of basketball in Nigeria first, and then the continent of Africa to take it to another step. The Nigerian people, as I’ve gotten to know, are extremely intelligen­t, extremely passionate, extremely prideful and one of the hardest working groups of people out there, and I’m happy to be able to be around that and see the depth of talents that this programme has to offer. I just feel like I wanted to be a part of it, because you’re going forward. In my opinion, there’s no reason why Nigeria can’t be a top five programme year-in-year-out with the talents. As long as we get establishe­d on youth programme, and we’re able to compete with Spain and Australia and Italy and all those other programmes in raising our young guys in the same programme, in the same system, so that they play together for years and when they’re with the senior national team. There’s a continuity, but more importantl­y there’s a connectivi­ty that the group will be able to have to sustain a top five level in the world.

Nigeria is a football crazy country, but with football out of the olympics, does this put more pressure on the basketball teams?

I understand the passion, you know a lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon a little bit. Tell coach (Gernot) Rohr and the rest of the players on the football team to start tweeting and showing us some love to continue to galvanise the country of Nigeria to support both the men and women’s teams. We are sorry that they didn’t make it, but we’re all representi­ng Nigeria right here, so let’s get on the bandwagon and show us love and support, you know, because if they were here, we’d be showing them the same love. I’m so excited that we are going to hopefully bring some joy to a lot of people looking forward to the Games to begin.

Do you think there is more passion from the players who were born and bred in Nigeria than those born in the us?

No, I don’t think so. I truly believe that the passion is there from everybody, and even players from the past that have reached out. And their love for the programme, for the country is off the charts. And I would say it’s that way because of their parents. One of the things I told everybody when I gave my speech about them coming to trials for the team I said, ‘hey look, I’m going to try to make this the best experience for you as possible. But in return, I’m going to demand a lot from you when you’re on the floor, and I expect you to carry yourself on and off the floor, like your parents who are from Nigeria’ because everybody’s parents are from Nigeria. All these guys have been raised in a Nigerian way, so they all understand their roots very well, and they’re all passionate about their roots because of their parents, and the people before them.

There’s no reason why Nigeria can’t be a top five programme year-in-yearout with the talents

What is the impact of new boy Precious Achiuwa on this team?

Precious Achiuwa some days ago, he guarded seven guys (in training), he guarded to other guys on the sideline, and then he got the block at the end of the possession. And I went up to him afterwards, I said, ‘Precious that’s what we need from you.’ I’m sure Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat coach) wants that. He guards everybody including the waterboy, and then he pushes it on a break for us.

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• Brown

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