CARACAS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) – Nigeria will taste the intensity of the Poliedro de Caracas when they play Venezuela in Group B in the final game of Day 1.
“We can’t control what we can’t control, we’ve got to let it go,” captain Olumide Oyedeji said, preparing his young team for the cauldron-like atmosphere.
“It’s going to be very aggressive and they’ll get the home crowd into it. I’m sure there’s going to be some things not go our way but we don’t care about that.
“We’re young, we’re athletic, we can shoot it, we get up and down.”
According to Venezuelan guard Gregory Vargas, his team is focused on the basics to make sure their fans get to celebrate. A loss would mean the home side has to defeat European powerhouse Lithuania to keep their Olympic dream alive.
Nigeria were 6-1 in last year’s FIBA Africa Championship, but have just three players returning this year, while Venezuela has eight players in uniform from their fifth-placed team at the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship.
In Group A, Greece takes on an inexperienced Jordan missing Rasheim Wright, their leading scorer from last year’s FIBA Asia Championship bronze medal team.
Greece returns nine from their sixth-placed Eurobasket team and welcomes back superstar Vasileios Spanoulis, one of four Olympiakos representatives who recently won the Euroleague-Greek league double.
This continuity has young guard Evangelos Mantzaris feeling confident.
“We have a very good chemistry and we know everything we're supposed to do in our position. I think we will show the best of ourselves,” he said.
Spanoulis will quarterback Greece’s pick-and-roll based sets, while Jordan rely on point guard Sam Daghlas to create shots from coach Tab Baldwin’s well-spaced offence.
Puerto Rico rounds out the group and will bring a change of pace from the meticulous Jordan and Greece.