NIGERIA : Nigerian camp opens June 26 in Houston

The Nigerian camp towards the 2009 FIBA Africa Nations Cup for men will open in Houston, USA on June 26th. The date and details of the scheduled was released by the Associate Head coach of the Nigerian national team Masai Ujiri from his Toronto, Canada base.

The official who also works with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA told FIBA.COM that the camping in Houston will form the major part of the first phase of camping as the country prepares for Libya 2009.

"This is the programme agreed with the head coach and has been given approval. It will be the first in about three stages in our build up to Libya," Masai said.
By the details of the national camping schedule, the June camping will take a break on July first essentially to enable the players take part in the NBA Summer League. The first part of the camping will feature 24 players based abroad.

"The Houston first stage is for the 24 players based abroad that have been screened and selected. Everybody is to get a chance to cross to the next level," he said.
When the players return on July 20th only 14 of the original 24-man list will return as the team will be trimmed down.

The 14 selected players from the Houston camp are expected to form the backbone of the final team of The Tigers to Tripoli and Benghazi - the Libyan cities where the African elite competition will hold from August 5 to 15.

American John Lucas has been named the new head coach of The Tigers; Masai as the associate head and Sani Ahmed of the Kano Pillars as the assistant coach. Coach Sani who was the assistant coach to Ayo Bakare during the qualifying series last year in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire is also expected to run a camp for selected home-based professionals. The Nigerian based players are billed to camp in the country in the month of June or early July. No exact date or venue has been ratified. The best of the Nigerian camp will compete with the foreign based players when the camps merge, we were told.

The details of the camping and the release of the names of the coaches end the speculations going around the basketball circles in the last two months on the formation of the national team.
Nigeria and 15 other countries will battle for the African cup and the three tickets to the FIBA World Championship holding in Turkey next year.

By Pius Ayinor
FIBA Africa