Tokyo 2020: Sports Minister showers encomiums on D’Tigress after narrow USA loss

…spurs D’Tigers ahead of next game

Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, has showered encomiums on the national women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, after they narrowly lost to the United States on Tuesday.

D’Tigress lost 81-72 to the United States in a Group B match played in Saitama. It was a brave performance from the African champions who were less than two weeks ago beaten by the US 93-62 in an exhibition game in Las Vegas.

Since losing at the Barcelona‘92 Olympics, the US women have now gone 50 games without defeat at the Olympics. But they will be asking themselves how a Nigerian side they recently defeated by 31 points, came close to creating the greatest upset in Olympic women’s basketball history.

And the minister was impressed by the way the African champions fought throughout the game at the Saitama Super Arena.

“I watched the game from the start to the end. Every moment,” said the minister who was at the match venue. “I saw players who can fight and they fought.”

The US led by 20 points at the end of the third quarter, using their size advantage to subdue the Nigerians.

But a fourth-quarter revival by D’Tigress saw the Nigerians reduce the deficit to five points at a stage in the contest before a late surge from the US rescued the day for the world champions.

“From 20 points disadvantage, I saw them climb back steadily, the height and built of the Americans notwithstanding,” said Dare, before expressing confidence about D’Tigress’ chances in their next game against France on Friday.

“The next game will be better. I trust them. They are like a family. Going up against the Americans like they did, our team is good and can be better.”

D’Tigress take on France on Friday in a game that, based on their performance against the Americans, could see the Nigerians record their first victory at the Olympics since the 2004 Athens Olympics when a Nigerian side led by the legendary Mfon Udoka defeated South Korea 68-64.

Aisha Mohammed-Balarabe, who is in the current D’Tigress team, recorded a game-leading 13 rebounds in that match played 17 years ago in the Greek capital.

Speaking after the encounter, Nigeria’s coach Otis Hughley Jr. said of facing the USA: “It’s like starting your boxing career and they tell you you’re fighting Muhammad ALI (USA) in his prime. Now that ain’t something you’re looking for. ‘I want to box, but I don’t want to box that bad’.”

Meanwhile, ahead of their next encounter at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Dare has met the male national basketball team, D’Tigers to thank and encourage them for doing Nigeria proud and starting a silent revolution in the country’s basketball development.

During the virtual meeting with the team and its officials on Tuesday, the minister assured the players of continued government, corporate and citizens’ support.

He said: “Coach Mike Brown, like I said, I can’t thank you enough. I am glad I watched the games, every other single game I’ve watched, I watched last one.  This is a winning team. I know you will take care of business. I can only wish you the very best as you prepare for the next two games and I’m sure that you will do this country proud. You guys bring it on. You got the skills, you got the commitment, you got the experience and I just want to wish you well.”

The Minister revealed that the team’s performance has started a silent revolution in the development of basketball in Nigeria.

Dare enthused: “I want to say that you have also ignited a revolution for basketball in Nigeria. You don’t know what you have started.

“As a ministry, as a minister we are committed to Project 109. Project 109, which is yet to start, because we are going to need the Kida-led team and you particularly, we have 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria, 109 senatorial districts each represented by one senator.

“Project 109 is aimed at building one basketball court in every senatorial district and manning each of those courts with coaches so that we can start to get talents and young ones that want to play basketball from the grassroots and graduate then through the amateur league to professional league.

“We think if we start that early enough, we can start to have younger basketballers come up. That is our own contribution to basketball development but of course we know that the federation will do more, we will work with you,” he stressed.




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