FIBA Women's World Cup: Raptors' Masai Ujiri calls for Nigeria victory

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images

D'Tigress, the Nigeria women's basketball team, will open their campaign at the 2018 FIBA Basketball Women's World Cup on Saturday in Spain, aiming to secure their first ever victory at the event.

The Nigerian team are making their second appearance at the tournament, following their debut in 2006, where they lost all three group games. They also fell flat in the two classification games that followed, and finished in 16th place.

Masai Ujiri, the president of the Toronto Raptors and a former Nigerian international, crossed paths with D'Tigress, who were holding a camp in Lagos, when he held his annual Giants of Africa programme recently.

Ujiri insists that the team has no excuse and must find a way to record a W, telling KweséESPN: "D'Tigress have to win.

"Hey, you have to win in sports. Sports is all about winning; you compete and you grow and you learn from all the experiences but at the end of the day, winning is what you must do."

Ujiri, who played with the first Nigerian team to qualify for a FIBA World Championship in 1998, added: "But, I believe in them.

"I was in Senegal for Giants of Africa watching the [2017 FIBA Africa Women] Championships on television and we were all very pumped and we all had our 'Nigeria Dreams Big' T-shirts in Senegal, celebrating our team.

"The teams all around the continent have to grow. And I think that for Nigeria, we don't lack talent; and the organization is getting slowly better. I know the team have prepared and will continue to prepare and hopefully will go on and have a good showing."

That 'good showing' is what Babs Ogunade, the Vice President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, planned for when he led a team of officials to Atlanta recently. They went to try convince the Dream's Elizabeth Olatayo Williams, the British-born Nigerian forward, to switch allegiance.

Her last international appearance was for the United States U19 team in 2011. That didn't work, but Ogunade is not deterred: "There is no perfect system and there can never be a perfect team.

"We are proud of the girls we have in camp and we are doing everything in conjunction with the Technical Crew led by Otis Hughley to get the best of them at the World Cup and in other future engagements.

"As every team would have wished for, we would have liked to have more accomplished WNBA players on the team to bring the needed experience, and we will continue working on all areas to ensure we present the best teams that Nigerians will be proud of every time."

Nigeria's campaign will tip off against 2006 champions Australia on Saturday, followed by other group games against Turkey on Sunday and Argentina on Tuesday.