But the country’s recent performances have caused more concern than optimism as the 2003 and 2005 Afrobasket winners dropped six places this year in the FIBA Women’s Ranking.
‘The Tigresses’, as they are known, are ranked 26th, behind Mali (17th), Senegal (20th) and Angola (23rd).
Nigeria finished fourth at the 2011 Afrobasket, with a 4-4 record after a 71-62 defeat to hosts Mali in the Bronze Medal Game.
The team’s captain and leading scorer in the tournament with 12.5 points per game, Rashidat Odun Sadiq acknowledges there is a lot to do.
“Other African countries have improved and capitalised on things we or other teams didn’t do right. My belief is everyone is working hard and getting better,” she told FIBA.com.
Sadiq is keeping fit in Oklahoma City and expecting to play overseas for the remainder of this season.
She is one of Nigeria’s most regular players, having first joined the women’s national team the at the 2004 FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament for Women.
Despite their potential and a talended squad, Nigeria have not been on a podium since winning the Afrobasket in 2005.
“I believe we have athletes that can make a difference and win African champions again,” Sadiq said.
“We just must have good preparation towards all championships.
“Our team has the most talented athletes from Africa because half of the players live in the United States and have played at some of the best colleges in the US.
“Many of the players play overseas so we have players with college and professional experiences, which give us edge in basketball,” the 31-year-old explained.
As the Nigerian Basketball Federation prepares to restructure their basketball programmes and announce head coaches to their national teams, next year´s Afrobasket – a qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women – has become clearly one of their targets.
The winners and runner-ups of that tournament will qualify for the biggest women’s international event to be held in Turkey.
“It’s always an honour to represent my country and for as long as God permits me, I will always represent the Tigresses with all my talent and strength to the Glory of God,” Sadiq said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s youth teams have missed out on international tournament for various reasons.
Last year, the U-19 women´s team withdrew from the FIBA U19 World Championship held in Chile, a worrying concern for some, but Sadiq offers alternative solutions.
“Nigerian youths are working hard and getting better through summer camps like the Rashidat Sadiq basketball foundation camp every year,” she said.
“The purpose of this camp is to encourage the young athletes to stay out of trouble, stay in school, and to create an opportunity for them to further their education on athlete scholarship abroad.”
Nigeria can enjoy the fact of being the only African women’s team to have won a game at the Olympics.
The memorable fact happened at the 2004 Olympics in Athens with a 68-64 win over Korea.