CARACAS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) – Nigeria may have lost a 71-69 heartbreaker against hosts Venezuela on Day 1 of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but they have not given up hope of emerging from Group B.
Nigerian captain Olumide Oyedeji revealed that if his team can climb the large mountain facing them and qualify for the Olympics, he will hang up his international boots.
“I have played all around the word, NBA, CBA, world championships,” he said. “The only thing I haven’t done is make it to an Olympics.”
Despite finishing on the dais at FIBA Africa Championship on six occasions, Nigeria has never qualified for the Olympics in men’s basketball.
“If I make it to these Olympics I think I can retire after that,” he said.
“If we don’t I will try one more time, but if we do make it there it would be a great honour for me as captain to lead them.”
But while the 31-year-old is desperate to reach the pinnacle before his time in the sport finishes, he realises there is a bright future for his country.
“We’re trying to build the team for the next 10 years. You look at this team and the average age is probably 23 or 24,” he said.
For Oyedeji, working with emerging stars Al-Farouq Aminu and Solomon Alabi is bringing him unexpected rewards, and bringing out the best in him.
“I have been on the team for 15 years since I was 16, so I have to pass knowledge onto the young players,” he said.
“Hopefully they can continue learning and continue growing, and we can keep bringing young players in and us older players keep tutoring them and showing the way.”