Today, we continue Olympic Madness with a preview of Nigeria!
Okay, so this video of Tony Skinn isn't of him playing for Nigeria. But who cares? It's probably one of the funniest dunks I've ever seen. Through the years, Tony Skinn has developed a bit of a reputation as a dirty player, having once punched a Hofstra player in the you know where. This dunk takes the cake though. After slyly faking the defense out of his side of the court, he charges at the basket and karate-kicks his opposition before dunking the ball. Say what you want about his class or whether it was legal, but doing something like that takes creativity and skill. And for me, those latter two aspects of the Nigerian team's play, embodied in this dunk, is what makes them ballin'.
If you read nothing else in this preview, then please, WATCH THIS VIDEO. It's not just a study of Nigeria's ability on the court, it's an appreciation for just how darned entertaining these guys make the game of basketball. This victory over Greece is what put Nigerian basketball on the map. The supposed no-call on the final shot was a source of rage for Greek fans everywhere after the game, but there's no denying that the Nigerians played their heart out, and made shots that some NBA players aren't capable of making.
Players to Keep an Eye On (click on their name for highlights):
What Others Are Saying:
"[Against Argentina] This is a winnable game for Nigeria. An advantage for the Nigerian team is their versatility and quickness. The Nigerian team are younger and more agile than the Argentines. If the Nigerian team can consistently attack the Argentinean defence, it might be hard for the Argentines to recover. This is the type of game that the Nigerian guards, Skinn and Dagunduro need to take control, they need to be able to orchestrate the offence and hurt the Argentines with their dribble penetration.
[Against France] I can see an upset here for Nigeria. France and Nigeria play similar kind of basketball, I believe the key advantage for Nigeria in this game will be Tony Parker, if he is not 100% Nigeria can take advantage of this and work their inside outside game to limit the French, this is the kind of game that shooters like Derrick Obasohan and Chamberlain Oguchi will have to be at their best to put away the French. France are not excellent shooters, so it is important for the Nigerian team to close out quickly and convert fast break opportunities. A lot of analysts are expecting France to be one of the favourites, but I see them struggling in this tournament."
"Led by Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu, Nigeria is a part of the wave of teams who have heavily recruited NCAA and NBA players with ties to the nation. Instead of focusing on homegrown talents, Nigeria and other nations have "recruited" players who never lived in the country or played in their youth teams in international competition. Diogu, a former Arizona State standout who played with a number of NBA teams, including the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers, was born in Buffalo. His parents emigrated from Nigeria in 1980, three years before his birth. Diogu hadn't played for Nigeria until this Olympic cycle."
Does This Team Have a Shot at a Medal? I'll say that Nigeria is definitely this Olympics' biggest wildcard. They have the potential to finish as high as second in Group A, but I could also see them falling apart completely and finishing in 6th, behind Tunisia. The big question for Nigeria will be whether their coach, Ayo Bakare, can find a way to consistently generate offense. The team was totally unprepared for the Olympic Qualifying tournament going in, and they still have a few problems deciding which players fit in which roles, and how to distribute the ball. If they can continue to play as well as they have, they have a dark horses shot at a medal. But if they come out flat-footed again, they could find themselves with a very early exit.
Future Outlook: Like their shot at a medal this year, Nigeria's basketball future is very much up in the air. The sport federation in that country is somewhat disorganized and corrupt. In a highly criticized move, the soccer team was suspended from international play by president Goodluck Jonathan after they failed to qualify for the tournament stage of the 2010 World Cup. This move put the highly successful women's team in jeopardy for the 2011 Women's World Cup, and the whole federation in possible trouble for political interference. The ban was later lifted, but I think that incident is indicative of the state of Nigeria in general. Whether the team sticks together is anyone's guess, but it's a highly talented basketball country that will no doubt have more American and Nigerian-bred stars for years to come.
How do you think Nigeria will finish? Do they have a shot at beating Team USA? Vote in the poll, post a comment!