Nigerian women’s basketball coach Otis Hughley Jr. called on FIBA to live up to its pledge of wanting to improve the sport of women’s basketball by letting Nigerian American players Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams compete for Team Nigeria in the Tokyo Olympics.
Hughley spoke after the Nigerian women fell 93-62 Sunday in an exhibition loss to Team USA at Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay, the final tuneup for both teams before they head to Japan. They will face off in Group B play in their Olympic opener on July 27.
But it’s uncertain if Williams, who started Sunday, Nneka Ogwumike and her sister Chiney Ogwumike will be able to play for Team Nigeria in Tokyo. Wednesday, Nneka Ogwumike and Williams were denied their application to play on the basis of their previous association with USA Basketball. Chiney Ogwumike was given provisional status to play for Nigeria as a naturalized citizen.
Nneka and Chiney rebounded for the Nigerians during warm-ups Sunday and sat on the bench. They have been dealing with injuries that have keep them out of WNBA play since late May/early June, but both hope to be healthy enough to play in Tokyo if they are on the Nigerian team.
“Allow them the opportunity to help grow the game,” Hughley said, and then added that it would mean a great deal to Nigeria and Africa to even be in contention to possibly win an Olympic medal, something no African nation has ever done in men’s or women’s basketball.
“That continent would just be turned on its head for basketball. In a good way,” Hughley said. “You have no idea how many lives would be impacted and changed for the ages.”