Nigeria may have been one of the first African teams to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China but D’Tigers have now set for themselves another target – end the qualifiers unbeaten.
Point guard Michael Umeh, who returns to the side for the first time in almost three years, is rather upbeat Nigeria have the steel to maintain their impressive 9-0 run in the qualifiers with three games against Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic (CAF) and Senegal still on the cards.
The last time Umeh sported the green-and-white jersey was three years ago during the 2016 Rio Olympics where he averaged 11 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
Now that he’s back with Nigeria, the 34-year-old wants to give in his best and show that his best years aren’t behind him yet.
“It feels good to be back with the team, I’ve missed playing for Nigeria and I wanted to come show some leadership and share my experience with the team,” he told FIBA.basketball.
The FIBA AfroBasket 2015 champion knows just how important being part of China 2019 is for Nigeria.
“The goal for us is to continue being solid and show why we are a dominant team and demonstrate to the world that we’ve grown as a federation and as a team. There’s no better place than the World Cup to prove that the quality of our basketball has improved.
“I followed the team and I watched the games and I was happy with what I saw because it shows that we continue to improve and every day the team looks better.
“The motivation within the team is still a 100 per cent. We want to always continue to show our dominance, we want to come in here and prove to the world why we feel we are the best African team and obviously we want to end the qualifiers unbeaten,” the 1.85m (6ft’1in) added.
“In my entire basketball career, my best memories have come from playing with the national team. It’s a pleasure suiting up for my country and I want to enjoy every minute of it,” Umeh noted.
“I’m in good shape and I feel like it’s important to put up an impressive show for the fans and just enjoy playing.
“My family has been very supportive and they motivate me all the time to be a better person. Whenever the anthem plays, I think about my community in Uga, that’s where my grandparents are from. I think about all the younger kids from that area supporting me and praying for me and it makes me stronger and determined to play my best basketball,” Umeh pointed out.