Eight new faces have been included in Nigeria’s 27-player preliminary squad for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the country’s basketball federation (NBBF) announced on Tuesday. Among the newcomers are Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the New York Knicks’ D-League affiliate Westchester Knicks, with both players set to compete for final roster spots.
Despite being invited by Nigerian Basketball Federation to join the National Team camp for Rio 2016, Thanasis Antetokounmpo is interested only in playing for Greece, as reported by SDNA. The website adds that Antetokounmpo will be likely included in the preliminary list of Greek National team for Olympic Qualifiers.
The U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team will play in Houston on its way to Rio. No formal announcement has been made yet but the USA Basketball website lists an Aug. 1 game vs. Nigeria with a link to buy tickets on the Toyota Center website. An NBA official said this week an official announcement on the game is expected soon. All the U.S. Olympic teams are stopping in Houston on the way to Rio. The U.S. Olympic Committee’s team processing setup will be in Houston. Athletes will get uniforms, credentials, etc. before heading to Brazil.
Among potential picks Nigeria are Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo and Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli. Voigt went on: “I don’t think there will be lots of changes from what we have seen in the previous summer. Right now we are not hundred percent sure whether or not he [Oladipo] will be able to do it, but he certainly is a name that everyone is well aware of. Probably, pretty shortly we should be able to confirm whether or not he will be involved. I have spoken with Festus, and I think he actually is on board and committed. He is ready to be a part of it.”
Oladipo’s first choice, of course, is to be selected to play for USA Basketball – the heavy favorites to win a third straight gold medal – in the Summer Olympics. However, if Oladipo is bypassed by USA Basketball, he could opt to play for Nigeria because of his parents’ heritage with the African country.
“Playing in the Olympics is definitely a dream, but I’ll worry about it when the time comes. Right now, the focus is on winning games for the Orlando Magic,’’ Oladipo said on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, whatever (Olympic) opportunity appears on the table, it will be about making the right decision that’s best for me.’’