NBA most sought after front desk manager, Masai Ujiri, at the weekend commended the board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) for putting up a working organisation for the men’s national team, D’Tigers ahead of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup holding in China between August 31 and September 15.
Speaking at a welcome home trophy show in Lagos, Nigeria, Ujiri who led the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA title for the first time in the club’s franchise history, observed that the Nigeria Basketball Federation has put some organisation in place that has seen the national team working in progression.
“I think the national team has done very well so far because Nigeria has the right talent. The only thing that has always come to question is with our organisation and preparation for major tournaments. I have been in touch with the President of the NBBF, Musa Kida, Col. Sam Ahmedu (rtd) and Coach Alex Nwora. In fact, Col. Sam and Nwora visited me in Toronto while scouting for players. I must say they are doing things the right way which is the process of preparation for the national team.
“I am very encouraged with what they are doing also with the women’s team where Mactabene Amachere is helping to put things together. The girls have a good chance of being champions again and the men’s team has shown character through the World Cup African Qualifiers. They have the potentials to make a difference at the World Cup.
“Sadly, I was not in Canada when they played their tune-up games. I see them taking the advantage of the withdrawals of some key players from the American team to make a huge statement for the country and Africa,” stressed Ujiri.
He pointed out that there are several opportunities that can be tapped into if the private sector is properly galvanised to promote the game of basketball in Nigeria, noting that this is the only way the youths can be reached and given a chance to excel.
Ujiri was a member of the Nigeria team to Senegal ’97 that qualified for the World Cup in Greece and the Raptors Nigerian president is credited for much of the success of the Canada-based team.
As President of Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri engineered the blockbuster trade which brought San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, a three-time NBA All-Star, NBA champion and finals MVP, to Toronto last year. The move has paid off remarkably with Leonard leading the team to their first ever NBA Championship title.
As part of his visit home, Ujiri also took the NBA trophy to his parents in Zaria and to the Ahmadu Bello University where he presented it to his first coach Oliver Babatunde Johnson (OBJ) who nurtured him in his formative