Abubakar Usman on the ball when Kano Pillars took on Nzui-Manto Basketball Club at the 2016 FIBA Africa Champions Cup for Men Final Round in Cairo. PHOTO: FIBA AFRICA..With a terrific display at FIBA Africa Champions Cup (ACC) last December in Cairo, Abubakar Usman reminded everyone how he is preparing to regain a place in the Nigerian national team.
The Kano Pillars shooting guard, who recorded a tournament-high 35 points against Algerian champions, GS Petroliers, last represented his country at FIBA AfroBasket 2011.
Since then, a lot has changed for good for both parts.While the Nigerians became the first African nation to qualify for an Olympics tournament via the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2012, they also claimed a first FIBA AfroBasket title two years ago.
Meanwhile, as his chances of earning a spot in the national team seemed elusive, Usman continued making strides at club level.He revealed to FIBA.com that he was part of a group of local-based players – alongside Stanley Gumut and Abdul Yahaya – invited for the D’Tigers preparations for the FIBA
AfroBasket 2015, but somehow things didn’t work out.Usman, Gumut and Yahaha couldn’t get entry visas to France where head coach, Will Voigt, and the team held the final phase of preparations before storming into Tunisia to beat Angola in the final.
Now, Usman says he couldn’t feel any better and prepared to earn a spot in Nigeria’s final roster for the final round of FIBA AfroBasket 2017 in Brazzaville, The Republic of Congo in August (19-30).
“I will take my chances,” he said. “I know it won’t be easy because we have some high-quality players but I have been working very hard over the years. There is nothing like representing your country in a competition like the AfroBasket. I know that special feeling [of playing for a national team].”
By virtue of winning the tournament two years ago, Nigeria – along with hosts Congo – remain as the only teams ensured a place in the final round so far, while the qualifiers get underway next month across the continent for the remaining 14 places.
“I think three or four locally-based players are good enough to play for Nigeria in Brazzaville,” Usman replied to a question about the influence and impact of foreign-based Nigerian players.
“I think people should come to Nigeria to watch us play more often. The league is getting better and better and local players deserve more publicity. Angola had dominated Africa with mostly home-based players because they invested in local players.
“When FIBA’s New Competition System begins [November 2017], I believe local players will have more chances to play for our country for sure.”Asked about Nigeria’s chances of winning a back-to-back AfroBasket, Usman had no doubts.
“Right now, we are the best team in Africa. The goal is to win the AfroBasket again.”
• Culled from www.fiba.com.