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Inspired by Nigeria's success at Women's World Cup, Uzoh & Co set bar high for D'Tigers at China 2019
CHICAGO (USA) - Nigeria made quite a splash at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018, by finishing in eighth place. It became a historic mark that no African team had ever achieved before.
Nigeria point guard Ben Uzoh and the D'Tigers have been inspired by this and hope they can achieve great things this summer when they return to the FIBA Basketball World Cup for the first time since 2006.
At China 2019, where the 2015 African champions will open their campaign against Argentina, Korea and Russia in First Round Group B, Uzoh will be living out a dream of playing on basketball's biggest stage and wants to do it in style by improving on Nigeria's previous World Cup outings in 1998 and 2006.
"HOPEFULLY, THIS WORLD CUP WILL BE ONE OF NIGERIA'S BEST EXPERIENCES YET. AS A UNIT WE LIKE OUR CHANCES."
Talking to FIBA.basketball, Uzoh described their opponents as strong teams that should not be taken for granted but he believes the D'Tigers can give them a run for their money.
"Hopefully this World Cup stage will be one of Nigeria’s best experiences yet. As a unit, we like our chances," said the 1.91m (6ft 3in) playmaker who averaged 9.1 points, 4.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 9 games during the African Qualifiers.
"We have a competitive group of teams with respected history. No fear, just respect. Definitely, I have a ton of respect for the countries in our pool and their history but I feel we're a dark horse that can compete beyond the preliminaries."
Uzoh admits that, by reaching the Quarter-Finals at the Women's World Cup in Tenerife last September, Nigeria's women have tasked the men to not limit their ambitions.
"A shout-out to our senior women's squad! Both of our success in recent years shines a greater light on Nigeria and Africa," Uzoh said. "Personally, the World Cup means a great deal to me as it's a stage I’ve never been on. But any time I share the court and a stage with my brothers in representing the country, it takes on a whole greater meaning for me."
"A SHOUT-OUT TO OUR SENIOR WOMEN'S SQUAD! BOTH OF OUR SUCCESS IN RECENT YEARS SHINES A GREATER LIGHT ON NIGERIA AND AFRICA."
Still revelling in Nigeria's feat of becoming the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup with three games in hand, Uzoh believes the team's spirit is what keeps them going.
“First off, being the No.1 team in Africa is something my brothers and I are proud of. But rather than pressure, it’s a great opportunity that we have as a country to continue to spearhead the growth and respect of basketball on the continent.”
In terms of preparations for the World Cup, Uzoh points to chemistry and preparation as a pair of key factors.
"I feel both of those will be key factors to maintain the success we had in the Qualifiers," he said, before recalling that playing in front of home fans in the Qualifiers was a good experience. "Playing in Lagos in front of family and friends will be forever memorable."