Following their poor performance at the just-concluded window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers, D’Tigers forward Michael Gbinije has stated that the men’s basketball team must win their remaining games in the next window of the qualifiers to stand a chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
D’Tigers recorded one win in three games, losing 78-66 to hosts Ivory Coast on Friday night at the 3,500-capacity Palais des Sports Treichville and putting their qualification hopes for next year’s World Cup in a tight corner.
Stand-in coach Mfon Udoh guided the team to an 89-70 victory over Guinea in their second game to bounce back from their earlier defeat to the Ivoirians, but they were brought down to earth in their last game of the series, losing 70-67 to Angola.
The 2.01m (6ft 7in) forward, who helped Nigeria win their only AfroBasket title in 2015, remained optimistic that it was not over for Nigeria, with a final window in February 2023.
“The other games we have ahead of us are must-wins,” he told FIBA.basketball.
“We didn’t have a good showing in this trip (in Abidjan) and we have made it tough on ourselves. Our only redemption is to look forward to the last window by winning all our games.
“I have had a lot of opportunities playing at the AfroBasket, exhibition games, the Rio Olympics 2016 and the World Cup qualifiers. Nigerian basketball is great on the global stage but we got to be better moving forward.”
Speaking on the one factor that has kept Nigeria as a force in African basketball, Gbinije said, “For every player, it’s different because we got some young and older players.
“Some of us play out of experience and teach the younger ones as we’re playing but as I said, the roster changed so much that one needs to start getting used to the new players. Overall, the chemistry off the floor helps us bond.”
Sixteen African teams are competing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers through five tournament windows over 15 months.
The qualifiers run from November 2021 to February 2023, with five African national teams earning a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup scheduled to hold from August 25 to September 10, 2023 in Japan, Indonesia and The Philippines.
Ivory Coast have qualified to pick one of the slots, leaving the other 15 countries to vie for the remaining four slots.