Rivers Hoopers boost squad with Yahaya and Akita, set eyes on Elite 8
PORT HARCOURT (Nigeria) – A place in the Elite 8 of the FIBA Africa Basketball League (ABL) is paramount in the hearts of the Nigerian side Rivers Hoopers squad.
They will begin their ABL campaign next month in Morocco.
Drawn in Group A alongside host Association Sportive Sale (AS Sale), Jeunesse Sportive Kairouanaise (Tunisia) and SLAC (Guinea), Rivers Hoopers are leaving nothing to chance as they have added two experienced players to their roster.
"MY TARGET IS TO QUALIFY FROM THE GROUP STAGE OF THE FIBA ABL AND GO FAR IN THE COMPETITION. WE NEED TO WORK HARD AND PREPARE BECAUSE IT'S AN INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION AND NOT A LOCAL ONE."
The Port Harcourt-based side have strengthened their roster by signing Abdul Yahaya - a 2,03 m(6ft8in) power porward from Kano Pillars - and Guard Akpara Akita who plied his trade with Bauchi Nets last season.
The 28-year-old Yahaya helped Mark Mentors to the Nigeria domestic league title in 2015 where he emerged as the Most Valuable Player of the competition.
Yahaya said he is in Port Harcourt to win and also do well with the club: "My target is to qualify from the group stage and go far in the competition. We need to work hard and prepare because it's an international competition not a local one.”
At the FIBA Africa Champions Cup 2017 Zone 3 qualifiers, Yayaha was named Most Valuable Player, highest rebounder and highest scorer as Kano Pillars claimed the title in Lagos.
He went on to play for Pillars at the FIBA Africa Champions Cup 2017 in Tunisia.
Despite losing to AS Sale in their opening game, Yahaya led all players in scoring with 22 points.
The Nigerian international gave a hint of what to expect when Hoopers play against AS Sale in their opening Group A game in Morocco and he’s confident the Port Harcourt side will come out of the group unscathed.
"Basketball is about your mindset. Your teammates should be ready to play and work as a unit and if we do, we will do well against any team we play against because those guys are well prepared, well paid and equipped. They don't think about any other thing apart from basketball and they don't care about the condition they are in, they just have to deliver.
"They have been together for a very long time. With the team I have seen in practices, they are young and have passion for the game and I believe we have a better team."
Yahaya believes he is unstoppable having played in the last five continental championships for Mark Mentors and Kano Pillars coming out in the top 5 scorers at the FIBA Africa Champions Cup 2017 .
"The Tunisian team we’re playing against is not the Tunisian League champions, Rades. I have played against those teams before apart from the Guinean team SLAC. If we put our heads together, I know no one in that Tunisian team (JS Kairouan) or Moroccan team (AS Sale) that can stop me because at the last continental I was among the top five scorers of the tournament. They will also be scared so we just need to put our heads together,” he reiterated.
According to @RiversHoopers Head Coach, Ogoh Odaudu, Abdul Yahaya is the only player that will join the team ahead of the @AfricaLeague— BballNaija (@BballNaija) February 13, 2019
The decision to sign Abdul Yahaya was based the club’s need of his experience in the front court and with continental tournaments.
Also on the roster of Rivers Hoopers is versatile guard, Akita who last season played for Bauchi Nets.
Akita was a former member of the Dodan Warriors Basketball Club. He brings experience and confidence on the floor.
Head coach Ogoh Odaudu is confident Yahaya’s qualities will help the team achieve their target at the FIBA Africa Basketball League and all through the 2019 season.
Rivers Hoopers will begin their FIBA ABL campaign taking on defending champions AS Sale of Morocco on March 1.