Mfon Sunday UDOKA  (Nigeria)
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Q&A with Nigerian legend Mfon Udoka


CHICAGO (USA) - Her name resonates with success and she remains one of the outstanding icons of Africa women's basketball.

During her playing career, Mfon Udoka Udoka led Nigeria at the 2004 Summer Olympics where she was second in scoring and rebounding although Nigeria finished 11th out of 12 teams.

The older sibling of former AfroBasket star and current head of coach of Houston Rockets Ime Udoka was a flag bearer for over a decade. She even worked with D'Tigresses on different management capacities.

More recently, the Nigerian legend and a two-time African champion was appointed to FIBA Players' Commission, a body that comprises 14 people, who get together to ensure that the players' best interests are catered for. caught up with Mfon Udoka days after her Commission held its first meeting in Switzerland.

Congratulations on your appointment as a member of the Player's Commission. What does this mean to you?

Thank you! It's an honor and privilege to be a part of the FIBA player’s commission. I am thankful to FIBA Africa as well. It was great to meet the other athletes from all over the world and interesting to discuss so many topics during our meeting in Switzerland. There's so much that goes into it and when you're playing, you don't think much about what's going on behind the scenes. I am excited to see what is to come in the next four years.

As a former player, how best do you think that players can be catered for?

Players should come first. Players are the product and without the product, we wouldn't have competition. The comfort, health and welfare, and overall experience should be priorities as far as players go. They should have whatever they need to be happy and comfortable. If you only have one opportunity to play in a FIBA competition, it should be memorable regardless of the outcome. I know it's grown by leaps and bounds since I played over 20 years ago. The players today are very lucky.

You played and captained Nigeria with laurels. What was the driving force for you and the team then?

When I showed up in 2003, I had never been to Nigeria or the African continent. It was really important to me to see where my Dad came from. It was much bigger than basketball; it was about my heritage and culture. I didn't know what to expect, but we won all three competitions in two months, which had never been done before. So the driving force is winning! When the same competitions comes back around, you want to properly defend your titles, and win them again.

We didn't always get that chance, but at the end of the day, it's about competition, winning, making history, having the most incredible memories and experiences, and then being rewarded with opportunities like playing in the Olympics and the World Cup.

Representing a country is by far one of the most, if not, the most rewarding experiences an athlete can ever have. It's every athlete's dream to play the Olympics and I'm so blessed to say that I've done that and made history for Nigeria on many different occasions.

[QUESTION ASKED BEFORE THE WOQT] - Nigeria was at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after getting a qualification ticket in Serbia, what do you think are D'Tigress chances this time around against Senegal, USA and host Belgium?

I fully expect us to go back to the Olympics. It's a difficult bracket, but every team has to play their hearts out, and I hope they get that ticket. This team is pretty young and inexperienced. As far as teams go, but some experienced veterans know the ropes and what it takes.

Rena Wakama took the African continent by storm leading Nigeria to a fourth AfroBasket title in a row in 2023, what worked for her?

She's a young and hungry coach, who is very competitive and probably has goals to be a head coach one day. She stepped into a position with a lot of pressure and expectations. Kigali AfroBasket was not the strongest competition as in previous years, so it was really up for grabs in my opinion. You're only as good as your players, and we had the athletes we needed to win our fourth in a row, and sixth title overall.

What do you think has been the magic for [D'Tigress]?

The magic is in the talented players we have and also the culture that I helped build and create. We won our first championship almost 21 years ago. I was on a team that won our first-ever back-to-back championships. Since then, we've had incredibly talented players wear the Nigeria jersey and I think every player knows the expectation when she puts on the green and white. It's Nigeria. We are the Giant of Africa, so that comes with very high expectations. Naija no dey carry last! We're tough, we play hard, and whether we win or lose, we battle.

What do you think about the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament?

During our players' commission meeting in Switzerland, I asked why the previous format was changed to what it is today. They said for a few different reasons, one being that there's more opportunity to play. So who wouldn't love that? I hope to attend one someday, but it looks like a lively, competitive, high-stakes tournament that just gives more opportunity for the growth of women's basketball.

Looking at women's basketball, do you think it has reached the desired level?

No, we still have far to go, especially on the continent of Africa. When we start to see more parity and not one dominant team that almost never loses like Team USA, then we can talk about reaching desired levels. Women are getting taller, bigger, stronger, more athletic and more skilled. I really think we will see more above-the-rim play in the very near future. We are definitely a sport that is still growing, and that is not a bad thing.

How best do you think the girl child should be encouraged to play basketball?

I firmly believe all children should play sports. There are just too many positives that come from sports, and what you learn you can use throughout your entire life.

I think girls would be more inclined to play when they see more women involved. It's really important for impressionable girls to see people who look like them. It's so strange to me to see a women's team with all male staff, such as coaches, trainers, managers, etc. Why aren't women in those positions? I have nothing against male coaches, my middle school, high school in college coaches were all men, and I love them to death! They taught me so much. But we are at a time now where we need to hire more women. Women need to be involved in women's sports!.

How would you describe your highs and lows as a player?

The highs are always winning! Winning is everything, and it gives you the most tremendous amount of satisfaction when you've worked so hard towards one goal and you accomplish it. There's nothing like it! The other part that I have been extremely thankful for is traveling and seeing the world. Regardless of my experiences in every country that I've visited, whether good or bad, I'm thankful that I got to see that city/country.

The Lows are definitely injuries, dealing with jealous, negative teammates who destroy team chemistry and of course, losing. There's so much more to injuries outside of the actual injury. There is a mental struggle you go through depending on the severity, and it can be really hard to trust your body, yourself, and regain confidence. It takes a while and can be really debilitating.

Dealing with pain, disappointment and adversity are a few of the many life lessons you learn from sports.

At the end of the day, basketball is a beautiful game that teaches you so many life lessons, gives you the best experiences and memories and I believe it's the best sport in the world. There's just nothing like it!