Chimezie Metu of the Sacramento Kings will lead a largely NBA-free Nigerian side in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers from July 1, while Alan Major will take over from head coach Mike Brown, who is on leave following the Golden State Warriors championship win.
Metu is one of 12 players nominated by the NBBF for games in Rwanda, just days after the Nigerian government made an about-face announcing the country’s return to international basketball after a six-week withdrawal.
The 25-year-old striker is the only NBA player on the roster and one of only four players based in the United States. The other three are NBA G-League players Ikenna Ndugba of the Greensboro Swarm, Michael Gbinijie of the Santa Cruz Warriors and free agent Uchenna Iroegbu who last played in the G-League with the College Park SkyHawks.
The team will be coached by Major, who is Head Coach Brown’s assistant coach. Despite speculation to the contrary in light of Nigeria’s recent hoops troubles, NBBF chairman Musa Kida told ESPN that Major was just replacing Brown, who was recently named head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
“Nothing has changed, Mike Brown is still our coach,” Kida said. “Alan Major was one of his assistants and supports this qualifying as Brown is fresh out of the NBA Finals. [with the Warriors] and needs time to recuperate before going to start his new job.”
Major will return to familiar territory in Rwanda, where he coached the Patriots Basketball Club during their appearance in the inaugural Basketball Africa League. He’s also not entirely a stranger to the Nigeria squad, having helped Brown at AfroBasket 2021.
But he will struggle with the quality of the staff available to him. Sources have told ESPN that Nigeria is unable to bring in many of its best players, especially from the NBA, who have been disappointed by the events of the past few weeks and have decided not to surrender. available for selection.
Officials also told ESPN that even if some of the NBA players were available, it would have been a logistical struggle to make the insurance and other travel arrangements the players take out.
Longtime captain Ike Diogu recently told ESPN that he was unavailable for selection, in light of the dysfunctional NBBF, and would instead spend the offseason playing in the Big3 competition, to Snoop Dogg’s team.
Four players, Ben Emologu (Rouen Metropolitan, France), Christian Mekowolu (Casademont Zaragoza, Spain), TK Edogi (Kolin, Czech Republic) and Emmanuel Omogbo (H.Izrael, Israel) have been selected by European clubs.
From the domestic league, Nigerian champions Rivers Hoopers provided two players, Michael Oriakhi and Victor Koko, while Gombe Bulls and Customs Abuja weighed in one each, Michael Okiki and Ice Agu respectively.
Nigeria, Africa’s number one ranked team, open their campaign against Cape Verde on July 1 at the BK Arena in Kigali, before facing Mali the following day. They play their last game of the window against Uganda on July 3.
After the first round of playoffs, Nigeria top Group A with five points from three games.
During this second window, 16 teams will face off in the second leg of matches decided earlier in November 2021 and March 2022. The top three teams from each group will advance to the second round where each team will play six matches.
The top two teams from each group, along with the best third-placed team, will qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. The World Cup also serves as a qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Nigeria risked a five-year ban from FIBA if the men’s team missed out on qualifying.