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"Women's World Cup a chance to make history for Nigeria," says point guard Kalu
BUDAPEST (FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - Nigeria have never hidden their intentions of competing against the best national teams in the world, and as the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 draw was announced on Tuesday, point guard Ezinne Kalu felt the African champions could have a chance to make history.
In their first FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup appearance since 2006, Nigeria will play Australia, Turkey, and Argentina in Group B.
The tournament will take place from September 22-30 in Tenerife, the largest of Spain's Canary Islands, and Kalu can't wait to wear Nigeria's green and white jersey again.
"IT IS A HUGE DEAL REPRESENTING NIGERIA INTERNATIONALLY. BEING ABLE TO DO SO REQUIRES DEDICATION, HARD WORK, PROFESSIONALISM AS WELL TEAM SPIRIT " - Kalu
Although the West Africans have never registered a win in the tournament, Kalu couldn't be more optimistic.
"I like the group that we are in," the 25-year-old point guard who currently plays for Vasas Akademia in Hungary's topflight, said to FIBA.basketball.
Previous Africa representatives - Senegal, Mali, Angola, Mozambique, Tunisia, DR Congo and Kenya - have tried, but all failed to move on from the competition's first round.
Yet, Kalu is adamant that they can do things differently in September in Tenerife.
"It's a tough group but I think we have a great chance at making it to the next round," she said. "We have played against Turkey so we know what to expect. At the time we were fresh, very new to each other and still learning the ropes of playing as a team. We have seen Argentina play. However, we haven't seen Australia play. Bottom line, I think we have a big chance."
In fact, Nigeria have proven to be a strong and solid team in recent years.
After claiming a 1-1 record at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, in Nantes, France in 2016, Nigeria took the Malian capital of Bamako by storm, winning all their eight games to become the FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017 champions.
However, Kalu insists that in Tenerife, the team will have to increase their "level of focus and be ready to take on these teams. [FIBA Women's] AfroBasket is over but that team we have become during FIBA Women's AfroBasket is still growing."
"I believe that every tournament is different. Although we did pretty okay two years ago in Nantes, I think it's safe to say that we have grown so much as a team since then," she reflected. "We have made adjustments as far as staff and players. I think that those adjustments have put us in a great position for us to continue being successful."
Born in New Jersey to Nigerian parents, Kalu admits that playing for Nigeria gives her a special feeling.
Kalu averaged 12 points and 3 assists per game at FIBA Women's AfroBasket 2017
"It is a huge deal representing Nigeria internationally. Being able to do so requires dedication, hard work, professionalism as well as team spirit. I have grown so much as an individual and player. Playing for the junior team was great and now playing on the senior level the feeling is nothing short of amazing. To be able to wear that green and white jersey to represent a whole country on a national platform is a blessing," she concluded.