Nwora: ''We're trying to build a dynasty for Nigeria basketball''
ABUJA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Africa Qualifiers) - Prior to taking charge of Nigeria, Alex Nwora worked with Cape Verde for close to six years and made his mark. However, not many thought he was the right man for the job.
But the head coach of the Erie Community College basketball team in Buffalo, New York, took up the Nigeria job and had his first test at FIBA AfroBasket 2017 with Ike Diogu as the only member of the 2015 winning side. Despite this, they finished in an impressive second place, behind Tunisia.
In February, in his second assignment, Nigeria topped Group B in Bamako, Mali in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers. Again, the team was a mix of players from the 2015 and 2017 national sides as well as some new call-ups.
In an exclusive interview with FIBA.basketball, Nwora talked about the challenges of the job and highlighted how Nigeria has such rich reserves of players that he often finds it difficult to make choices.
Nigeria came away from the first-leg of the World Cup Qualifiers with a 3-0 mark. How does that makes you feel?
It makes me feel good. It's good knowing that we put in a lot of work to assemble this team in a short period of time. Thanks to the staff for all their help for the short period of time we had for this assignment. I think it was a good outing for us.
What should we be looking forward to in the third window?
We'll have more players and it will be down to seeing them battling it out for a place in the team. The toughest part will be choosing the players. I'm happy some of these guys that played in the first leg of the Qualifiers did very well and those who did not make it to Bamako are angling returns to the team. That's going to make the camp a tough one.
The team that finished second at FIBA AfroBasket 2017 is different and so was the squad in Mali. How do you cope with handling them?
What we're trying to do is build a dynasty for Nigeria basketball. So we want to have good resources that any responsible organization [country] should have. As of now, we're looking to rebuild the national team and we have some veterans who are leading the way. We're also trying to put together local players and foreign players who were unable to join us. I have all my players' video tapes including the ones who could not compete for us in February.
What is your ultimate goal for Nigeria basketball and how do you intend to empower coaches back home?
I have been doing coaches training abroad. I can bring more people along with me especially for the local coaches and this is exactly what they need more than anything else. Again, after having the passion, they got to have the patience also. It's not about what you can get out of the game but what you can give the game. And then everything will improve. I don't think Nigeria coaches are as bad as people want to paint us but the truth is we don't have the opportunity. Training them once in a while is a good idea but it's also important that they invest in themselves.
"I DON'T THINK NIGERIA COACHES ARE AS BAD AS PEOPLE WANT TO PAINT US BUT THE TRUTH IS WE DON'T HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY" - Nwora
How did you get into basketball coaching?
I started out in Anambra State [in Nigeria] and coaches Mabel and Kalu were the ones that started me up in basketball. However, the person that really paid attention to me was [the late] coach Sunny Edemba who took me up during a tournament. And I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to the United States of America. I played four years in America and I graduated with a degree. I went abroad and played with the Harlem Globetrotters before going back for my masters. It was after my masters that I went into coaching.
Are your kids also into basketball?
I have four kids. My first kid Jordan [Nwora] is a basketball player at Louisville Athletics. He has played under coach Bobby Petrino, who is one of the best in America and I respect him a lot. Jordan was voted one of the best shooters in 2017 and his abilities amazes me.
My first daughter is almost 16 years old and she also plays basketball but wants to be a lawyer. All my kids are all into basketball one way or the other.
If you weren't in basketball, what would you be doing?
I'm a graphic designer. That's the degree I bagged before going for my masters. I like working with people to share knowledge of whatever I have.