Nigerian Basketball Lacks Organisation – Udoka | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigerian Basketball Lacks Organisation – Udoka

Posted: Jun 27, 2015 at 1:13 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nigerian former professional basketball player, Mfon Udoka, in this interview with Chibuike Chukwu at the sideline of the just concluded FIBA Africa Zone3 3×3 basketball championship at the National Stadium, Lagos, talked about challenges of basketball growth in Nigeria, life after the game and her desire to assist to lift the game in Nigeria, among other issues. Excerpt:

What have you been doing since you quit playing basketball?

I live in New Jersey and involved in coaching younger ones. You know that is part of me; it is part of who I am today.


You were part of the last D’Tigress team that won the Nation Cup for Nigeria in 2003 and 2005. What do you think is responsible for the long delay in winning the title again?

I think the leadership is what you have to look at. When things fall apart, it is not from bottom, but from the top. No matter what one might say, there is no reason for the long absence in winning the championship again. It is about the leadership that is managing the game in the country.


Don’t you think that Nigeria may not boast of quality players like your own time?

It has nothing to do with players; it is not about the quality of players we have presently because you can find Nigerian players, very good ones, scattered all over the world in Europe, America  and even here in Nigeria. They are willing to play; it’s just that we don’t have the right programme in place to drive this course.


You mentioned a problem, what do you think is the way forward?

I think we just need a president (NBBF president) who is capable of organising and prioritising basketball at the national team level, while not forgetting the various developmental stages of the game. During our time, everybody understood that Nigeria has the potential to be the world champion at a point in time.

We have the talent but don’t have the organisation and preparation to drive the game. Those at the helm of affairs do not see beyond the present realities in order to develop the game. Basketball has to be given the priority because in Nigeria, we usually talk about what to do without commensurate action plan to back it up. That has been the challenge.


You had the chance of playing for the United States but you opted for Nigeria, what informed your choice?

It was interesting to play for Nigeria, even though then, I never knew much about the country. In 1999, I got an invite from Nigerian authorities to come and play. Then, I never knew I had an option to play for Nigeria. I honoured the invitation. I later played a big part for Nigeria conquering Africa. We won titles back then. Nigeria is my fatherland and I am proud to play for her.


What has changed in the D’Tigress since then?

It is unfortunate that we have not been able to build on that successful era. Sincerely, we have the talents in the youths that are coming up, some of them very much talented than us, but we have not been able to build on them. I think it’s a matter of putting a programme and good plan together to help them achieve success. Nigeria is not lacking in talents.


If you receive a call at any point in time requesting you to come and assist in bringing back Nigerian basketball back to glory days, will Mfon Udoka be willing to come down to help out?

You never want to say no to something like that. Unfortunately, the leadership is not willing to change right now. All over, people that had played the game internationally and won titles are looked upon for support. Sadly, we are not looked at with similar intent.

If some of us come together to work, there is no level we cannot attain with the game in the country. Some of us are willing to offer our help. The question is, can they welcome the assistance? Can they implement good programmes that can be put on their table?

I will advice that they should put their pride aside and ask for help instead of working alone. You don’t build a good programme working alone. That is what is happening at the leadership of basketball in Nigeria. You really need each other to succeed.


You have a programme you are running in the United States and it has to do with kids. What was the motivation behind it?

When you look around and see some cities without support and good programmes to help the kid, and the kids want to learn what you know, you just have to offer help.

Imagine having so many kids around you that are not doing anything, then you have to come to them with plans and worthwhile programmes. You may never know the kind of opportunities you are presenting to them.

It is a matter of one presenting something for the less-privileged kids to do. Even you that is presenting the programme, you can never tell where it will take you. When I started playing basketball, I never knew that one day, I will become an Olympian. So it’s about providing opportunities.


Is there any plan to replicate same here in Nigeria or any other African countries?

Yes, it could be done. I can come down here with the programme, but we don’t have the facilities and we don’t have people here who are willing to learn. Absolutely, I can replicate the programme here and present opportunities for the kids.


How do you rate D’Tigress’ chances at the forthcoming Nation Cup in Cameroon?

I haven’t really seen them, but from their individual players and their results from the qualifiers, I think they are a little bit away from perfection. Secondly, I don’t know what the preparations and programmes are. But as I said earlier, we definitely have the talent. The federation has to put good programmes in place to ensure good preparation for the girls.