22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
to read

Ezeh and new group of D'Tigers making a case for local players at World Cup qualifiers


LUANDA (Angola) -  When Nigeria named a squad mainly made up of local-based players for the final window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers, it seemed like they had given up on the idea of qualifying for the global showpiece.

But a game into these qualifiers, this young group of D'Tigers players have dispelled the perception that they are merely in Angola to get a feel of international basketball.

Instead, the Nigerians turned heads in Group E on the opening day by beating a Cote d'Ivoire side carrying experienced players like Solo Diabate, Vafessa Fofana and Charles Abouo. 

Despite Nigeria's memorable victory, it must be said, before the start of these qualifiers in Luanda, Cote D'Ivoire had already sealed qualification for the 2023 World Cup in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

But Nigeria's 72-63 win will help build their confidence for their second game against fellow West Africans Guinea on Saturday.

One of the players who stood out in the win over the Elephants of Cote D'Ivoire was 20-year-old point guard Victor Ezeh, who scored 18 points, and delivered two assists and three rebounds.

The Kwarra Falcons guard, who spoke to FIBA.basketball on media day on Thursday at the game venue, Pavilhao Multiusos do Kilamba, said while the trip is a learning excursion, they are also here to exhibit their abilities.

On a personal level, Ezeh also mentioned that this tournament would help him be ready for the Basketball Africa League (BAL).

"I feel honoured to represent my country at this level. I have never played at this level of basketball before, so I want to get a feel for it. I want to learn, grow and prepare my mind for the BAL," said Ezeh. "We hope to prove a point because, in the past, home-based players have not had enough opportunities to represent the country at the highest level.

"So we are here to show our country and fans that we understand the game and can play at the highest level."

Ezeh seems like a player with potential and could be a player to look out for in the future.

He also spoke about the match against the Ivory Coast and felt he was slow out of the starting blocks and had to figure out a different way of helping the team.

"Things were slow on offence. So I took it upon myself to guard their number ten (Solo Diabate) and slow him down. That helped me get my rhythm going forward in the game," said Ezeh.

Ezeh and his teammates are the flag bearers for local players Nigeria at these qualifiers, and should they exceed expectations, it will definetaly be hard for selectors to ignore them.