Is Spencer Dinwiddie the missing link in Nigeria’s Basketball Olympic dream?
Watch out basketball world, Nigeria has landed!
The African nation has never won an Olympic medal basketball, but NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie is hoping to change that at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.
The Brooklyn Net had initially been dreaming of a call up to Team USA, but after the invitation didn’t come he reached out to Nigeria instead.
College career cut short
Dinwiddie, 27, played college basketball for the Colorado Buffaloes, where he earned first-team all-conference honours in the Pac-12 as a sophomore, before missing most of his junior year after injuring his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
The Los Angeles native recovered, and was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft with a highlight reel just three plays long, due to the injury that cut his college career short.
He then transferred to the Nets in 2016, performing a key role as one of the best sixth men in the league before being forced into more of a starting role.
Despite recording an impressive average of 20.6 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game this year and finishing 10th in All-Star voting for Eastern Conference guards, he did not make Team USA's list of 44 Olympic finalists.
Now, he is in the process of obtaining a Nigerian passport so he can play for the birth nation of his father at the Olympics.
Nigeria qualified for the last two Olympics, finishing 10th at London 2012 and 11th at Rio 2016, and have ambitions to be challenging for medals at major world events.
However, those ambitions are constantly undermined by the loss of talent like Victor Oladipo, Bam Adebayo and OG Anunoby, who go on to represent different nations.
"We have lost many good players in the past, but now things are looking up. Top-rated players have started reaching out to the federation," said Nigeria Basketball Federation president Musa Kida in a statement.
"We knew we needed some star power. And we considered where we needed the most help. But that area [point guard] is where we were a bit lacking and we searched all over the place."
Nigeria's NBA lineup
Nigeria qualified for the 2021 Olympics by being the top-placing African team in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, in a generally underwhelming performance.
The team will be anything but a one-man band, should Dinwiddie’s application be successful.
He will be joining fellow NBA ballers Al-Farouq Aminu, Josh Okogie and Chimezie Metu, as well as former league player Ekpe Udoh, in pulling on the green and white jersey. It is also reported that Jahil Okafor of the New Orleans Pelicans will lace up for Nigeria at the Olympics.
The stewardship of Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown, coupled to the extra year of training the team will benefit from due to the Games’ postponement, mean the D’Tigers will be roaring in Japan.