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Nigeria's Efevberha: ''We have the opportunity to go to China and shock the world''
BEIRUT (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - Nigeria's Michael Efevberha believes the 2015 African champions can shake the international basketball fraternity at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
And while Nigeria's coaching staff, players and fans acknowledge there is still work to be done in the last window of the African Qualifiers in February - when they will go up against Cote d'Ivoire, Central African Republic (CAF) and Senegal - Efevberha is urging his peers to set a tone and "let all of Africa know that we mean business" as he told FIBA.basketball.
"I'M SURE THE TEAM WE'LL TAKE FOR THE LAST WINDOW OF THE QUALIFIERS IN FEBRUARY WILL GO OUT THERE AND TRY TO DOMINATE AS IF WE HAVEN'T QUALIFIED YET."
The 6ft4in (1.93m) shooting guard was instrumental for Nigeria in the February 2018 window and his performances have propelled the former continental champions to an impressive 9-0 record, good enough to guarantee them a place in China.
And, unlike Tunisia - who also qualified on the back of winning their first nine games but lost two of their three games in their last round of qualification last month - Nigeria will be looking to remind everyone why they currently sit as Africa's No.1 in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike.
"It feels good to be 🔙 and these crops of players have made me really proud ✊🇳🇬" Michael Efevberha (15.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.7 APG) #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) March 5, 2018
➡ https://t.co/iJONr8KTjO @nbbfonline @JustMoneyMike8 pic.twitter.com/HC7SbexDlM
"Even though we have already qualified for the World Cup, I'm sure the team we'll take for the final window of the Qualifiers in February will go out there and try to dominate as if we haven't qualified yet. We want to set a tone and let all of Africa know that we mean business," he warned.
"So far the African Qualifiers have been getting more competitive as each round passes. There are some very talented players all over Africa and around the world. I'm really looking forward to watching and competing against them all in China next year."
Efevberha averaged 15.7 points and a team-high 5.7 assists per game in three games
The 34-year-old, who currently plays for Lebanese side Homenetmen Beirut B.C., likes to think that Nigeria can achieve what no other African country has ever done at the World Cup - reaching the Final.
"I BELIEVE OUR NATIONAL TEAM IS TALENTED ENOUGH AND WELL COACHED ENOUGH TO REACH THE FINAL OF THE WORLD CUP."
"Qualifying for the World Cup is definitely a huge accomplishment for our national team. It has been a while since we last did so and now we have the opportunity to go to China and shock the world," said Efevberha.
"I believe our national team is talented enough and well coached enough to reach the Final of the World Cup. When we lock in defensively we are very tough to deal with. We have enough fire power offensively to compete with anyone around the world.
"The only team that can defeat us is ourselves. If we stay together as a family should, we will be very difficult to play against."
Efevberha knows of what he talks about. Back at 2009 FIBA AfroBasket, he led Nigeria in scoring, yet they returned home disappointed after missing out a spot for the 2010 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Turkey.
He returned for the D'Tigers last year to find a better, stronger and highly-motivated Nigerian team ready to live up to their talent accolades.
"THE ONLY TEAM THAT CAN DEFEAT US IS OURSELVES. IF WE STAY TOGETHER AS A FAMILY SHOULD, WE WILL BE VERY DIFFICULT TO PLAY AGAINST."
"Rejoining the national team was definitely a great honor for me," he recalled. "There is no better feeling than playing for your home country. I'm very lucky to hold dual citizenship and I'm happy that Nigeria recognizes me as one of their top players around the world.
"It's more than an honor to play for a team regarded as the strongest in all of Africa. I believe we're also one of the best teams around the world, and we will make sure to show that at the World Cup this year."