Miye Oni's rising talent helping D'Tigers lift Nigeria's Olympic hoops hopes
LAS VEGAS (USA) – Leading into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Nigerian men's basketball team celebrated two big wins in three days in international friendlies. Young and ambitious, Nigeria kicked off their pre-Games preparation by stunning three-time defending Olympic champions USA with a historic 90-87 victory.
The D'Tigers followed this up with a 94-71 blowout over Argentina, the world’s fourth-ranked side before finding themselves on the other side of a thrashing, falling 108-69 to world No. 3 Australia in Las Vegas.
FIBA caught up with the rising D'Tiger talent Miye Oni before he left with the Nigerian team to the Tokyo Games.
The shooting guard made a name for himself playing collegiately for Yale University, where he led the Ivy League in all the leading statistical categories, en route to conference player of the year honors.
Selected in the 2019 NBA Draft's second round by the Golden State Warriors and subsequently traded to the Utah Jazz, Oni has since carved out a regular roster role in the Association – one that he has already started to expound upon this summer with the D'Tigers in international play.
Could Tokyo 2020 prove the place where the 23-year-old helps take Nigerian men’s basketball to new all-time international heights?
FIBA: Miye, you got called from the Nigerian Federation to be included in the 15-man provisional roster in preparation for the Olympic Games. How did you feel when you got called by the D'Tigers?
MIYE ONI: It's such a joy to be called for the training camp and be able to fight for a spot for the Olympic squad. I have been waiting for this moment for so long, and it's finally happening now. I am so proud and eager to help the national team, and ready to give 110 percent for the D'Tigers. I have been working hard to be there, and right now, I am grateful for the opportunity. I want to make the most of it and I dream of going to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
This team still beat two of the top 5 teams in the world this week.— D’Tigers | Nigeria Basketball (@NigeriaBasket) July 14, 2021
This team is special. We’re excited to make some noise in Tokyo pic.twitter.com/ByQsswLrTN
When was the first time you got in contact with the Nigerian basketball federation to wear the D'Tigers' jersey?
We have been in contact and talks with them since I was like 17-years-old. I have a great relationship with the federation, and I have always expressed my goal of playing for the national team and represent Nigeria at the highest level. I am proud of being a Nigerian basketball player, and it's a dream come true to be called to represent my country. This is one of the goals I have in my career, and I am happy to be able to do so. I am going to show the staff that I can help. I will do everything to bring Nigeria to the highest level and put it between the powerhouses of basketball.
The staff has a lot of experience, with head coach Mike Brown being the leader of it.
Yes, the staff is great and having someone like coach Brown as head coach is something significant. He has been doing great in the NBA and he is a great coach. He is going to help us grow and improve both as a team and each player individually, that is for sure. He coached some of the best players in the world and his experience of the highest level is priceless. We are learning a lot and we will get better and better with coach Brown, there is no doubt about that.
Precious Achiuwa, Gabe Vincent, Jordan Nwora, Josh Okogie and many more. The young guns are taking over the D'Tigers!
(Laughs). Every guy is going to be very important for the team, and we will play as one, we will defend as one, no matter what. We have a lot of talent, and it's just the beginning of something great if you want my opinion. We have talents in every position, guys that played in international competitions before and have been doing very well so I am so excited about what's coming next. We are building a fantastic team. We are ambitious and we want to write great pages on Nigeria's basketball history.
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Nigeria is going to compete against Australia, Germany and Italy for a spot in the next round.
It's a great group, and every team has a chance to go to the next round. Australia has many NBA players and a lot of experience. Germany has great players, too, and they can shoot, and Italy is a very solid team. Every game is going to be a tough battle, but we will be ready for those. The challenge is going to be great and we are all excited about this competition. I mean, who doesn't dream about playing in the Olympics? Every basketball player dreams about doing so.
What would be the goal in Tokyo?
The goal is to have a great tournament and the dream is to win a gold medal. Many teams can get to the medals spot, and we want to be part of the discussion too. We are young, but we have a lot of ambition. We are eager to make our compatriots proud and to show the world that Nigeria is a very competitive team. They did well in China at the previous FIBA Basketball World Cup, and we want to keep showing that we are a team that counts on the main stage, and that will count from now on at the highest level.
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You played in the last two seasons with international players that have a lot of experience, such Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles. How much do you think you learn from players that have great FIBA experience and competed in major global tournaments?
Learning from them is great, and it's such a privilege to be sharing with them and watching them play, and also listening to the advice they give you. They are very good players and they know so much about the game, man, that's fantastic for a young player like myself. We did joke around with Joe as we are going to play against each other in the Olympics. I told him to get ready for the battle (laughs). They have both been playing for so long at the international level and they are amazing competitors. I really hope they have a great tournament in Japan, but I want to win against their respective national teams.
How excited are you about getting a FIBA experience?
I can't wait to play FIBA Basketball. I have been wanting to do so for a while now and it's getting closer and closer. Playing in the Olympics is something unique. FIBA basketball is so competitive, and you play against teams and players that you aren't used to playing against. There are so many talented guys around the world who play in different leagues. I want to compete on that great global stage.