ABUJA, NIGERIA – Nigerian basketball fans are preparing to cheer on the national team, Rivers Hoopers, as they face off Sunday in Kigali against Rwanda’s Patriots in the first game of the Basketball Africa League.
The league is a joint effort between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA). The Nigerian team includes three former NBA players, Chris Daniel, Ben Uzoh and Sullivan Valdis.
Basketball lovers like Chibuike Nwakakwa pledge their support for the Nigerian team.
“I believe the boys have what it takes. I feel like they’ll excel, we stand positive, we stand with our country,” Nwakakwa said.
The competition will have 12 teams, including Nigeria, competing for the African title between now and May 30.
Anthony Ekpenkhio, basketball player and secretary of an Abuja basketball club, said Nigeria has a good chance of winning the competition.
“If any country stands a chance of winning, I believe it’s Nigeria for a few reasons,” he said. “First of all, we have more international players than any other nation, especially in the U.S. and in the NBA. Some of our players are playing in top teams and some of them are even the best players in their teams.”
Ekpenkhio said the Basketball Africa League is a testament to the state of basketball on the continent.
“It’s the best thing that has happened to basketball in Africa and I am especially glad that Nigeria is part of it,” he said. “It’s really something unique. I mean with all the best teams in Africa competing and getting international attention doing this, that’s just awesome.”
The 12 teams have been placed in three groups of four teams each.
Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers must emerge on top in group A over teams from Tunisia, Rwanda and Madagascar to advance in the tournament.