Nigeria women's team in peak form ahead of FIBA World Cup

Kalu Ezinne took part in Nigeria's winning run at the FIBA Africa Championship in Mali in 2017. Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Nigeria women basketball team are close to their preferred playing form ahead of the 2018 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, which will be hosted by Spain from 22 to 30 September.

D'Tigresses will be making their second appearance at the FIBA event, following their debut at the 2006 tournament in Brazil. As it was in 2006, D'Tigresses will arrive in Spain as African Champions, following their triumph at the 2017 FIBA Africa Championship for Women, hosted by Mali.

They were back-to-back African Champions in 2003 and 2005, but had to wait a while before landing their third title in 2017. But that is where the comparison ends.

Babs Ogunade, the Vice President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, told KweseEspn that this group is quite different from the 2006 bunch, and tried to temper expectations.

"I need to caution Nigerians on the need for them not to focus too much on comparing the team that went to the World Cup in 2006 and the present set, because they are totally different," Ogunade said.

"Comparison brings unnecessary pressure which leads to unnecessary mistakes. Let's sit back and watch what this team can offer."

Some will say Ogunade is just being cautious. The 2006 team finished as the least ranked team at the tournament, in the 16th spot; and despite the recent, sudden coaching change, fans back home will expect a better performance.

Sam Vincent, the former Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls point guard who led the team to the win in Mali, was swiftly replaced in August after alleged continued absences, by another American in Otis Hughley.

Ogunade said: "There are Technical and knowledgeable people on the NBBF board, and their varied experiences and Technical know-how was deployed to select the new coach.

"Don't also forget that we had to react quickly when it became apparent that we would part ways with Sam Vincent. We were not going to stand in the way of his business, but we were also never going to allow him to jeopardize national interests."

Members of the team worked out in Atlanta, Georgia for over two weeks last month, and followed that up with a training camp in Nigeria, where they have played two warm up matches - one against a selected women side, and one against a local men team, and they won both.

Ogunade insists the progress has been good, despite the setbacks: "We finished the first phase of our training schedule, and pruned the team to a sizeable number, we played a match against a WNBA team (in Atlanta).

"The third and final phase starts when we leave Nigeria and head out to Spain [this week] to have more friendly games and of course to acclimatize all in preparation for the Championship proper."

Ogunade then went on to restate his confidence in a team that many have noted are short in stature: "I have not been involved in any previous World Cup team, I was however with this female team in Mali, these ladies give you 110% and more, that's good enough for me.

"We are not a very big team, however what we lack in those areas we make up for in speed, youth and spunk."

The team captain, Adora Elonu, who was drafted from the training camp by the Atlanta Dreams, joined up with the team in Lagos following their defeat in the WNBA playoffs.