On Friday, many local media outlets reported that Morris would play for the African nation at the Olympics. The reports were confirmed by the official social media accounts of the Nigeria Basketball Federation and the Nuggets.
Brown gave further confirmation to ESPN, but said the process is not yet complete and could very well fall apart.
He really wants to play for us, but there are some technical details we need to work out, said Brown, the assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors.
A technique that NBF president Musa Kida has yet to perfect before it happens. So he’s trying to figure that out now.
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Morris succeeds Dinwiddie, whose decision stunned the Nigerian basketball fraternity when it was announced almost a year ago. Brown said what appears to be a trickle of water today could very well become a faucet.
The crazy thing is that a lot of American players and coaches have approached me to be on the team, either as a coach or a player, and I think it’s a great program, he added.
NBF vice-president Babs Ogunade added that the number could rise to 16, but neither he nor Brown wanted to name names, although Brown confirmed that Dallas Mavericks small forward Wes Iwundu and Detroit Pistons center Jahlil Okafor are two of the names being considered.
I spoke to Wes, Jalil. He was in Nigeria and spent some time there when he was 11, 12 years old. He’s a man who makes me happy. We should all be excited about a guy like Jaleel because of his talent and skill in the low post, Brown said.
Morris’ acquisition provides a broader picture of Brown’s rise since his quest to return from the Olympics with a medal around his neck began.
That goal seems to have been the catalyst for this plethora of potential players to add to an already formidable team. That list includes Al-Farouq Aminu, Josh Okogie, Chimesi Metuh and former NBA stars Ekpe Udoh and Ike Diogu, but the coach is keen to point out that this is not an option for everyone.
Now all these NBA All-Americans come to me, and as a coach of a team, you take any player that wants to play and you evaluate him based on what you need or don’t need. Because when you look at a player like Spencer Dinwiddie, you look at his size, his ability to play point guard, his past performance in the league and his age. You look at all those things and try to figure out how he and the other players can help.
He’s no different than a player like Monte Morris. He’s a young guy, his pass-to-ball ratio is one of the best in the league; he’s small, but physical; he’s a true playmaker; he brings the ball to others.
You look at these things and you evaluate them. Does it make sense for your team based on the players you have or not? And a guy like Monte, I think, makes sense for our team when things are going well.
So far, Dinwiddie and Morris are the only two to have openly reaffirmed their commitment to Nigeria, but won’t the competition for places cause resentment among those who have been there from the start? Mr. Brown chose to focus on the battle for seats and the challenges that come with them: The competition will be serious, it will be fierce. That’s the way you want it. I think when you talk about the brutality and how hard it will be to be part of the team, to contribute to the team, I don’t know if you want anything else.
You want your best team to attract the best players, which means the best players will compete for places, and that’s what matters.
However, both men quickly appealed to the country’s basketball community to use naturalized players with no real ties to the country. FIBA rules provide a quota for naturalized players regardless of their affiliation with the country (or not), but some purists believe that only players with parental affiliation should be allowed to represent the national team.
The Olympics is not a sports competition, Ogunade said. People come to us with all these stories about how the national team should have local players. That’s a ridiculous argument for a [national] league that hasn’t played in three years.
We look at the players that come in and pick the best ones to make our team stronger, and FIBA rules allow us to do that.
Brown struck a more conciliatory tone: I understand why people are upset about Spencer or Monte. But it’s no different than Nigeria’s national football team with a foreign coach, or Shane Larkin, a former NBA player who played for Turkey, or Becky Hammond and J.R. Holden who played for Russia, and there are a few more examples.
If the coaches and players are particularly interested in moving the country forward and it’s mutually beneficial, why not? For example, one of the greatest Nigerian players is named Hakeem Olajuwon and he played for Team USA.
People should understand that American NBA players want to come and play for Nigeria. Whether it happens or not, it has to be positive. For people who want to help the country in any way they can. It means people know the team is special. I understand how people feel about it, but I wish it was more of a positive than a negative.
Ten years ago – even less – nobody wanted to be there, even some Nigerian players did not want to be there. But under Kidda’s leadership, everyone wants to come, and I give Kidda credit for making them more popular. It was he who persuaded me to go and see him. By listening to his vision, spending time with him and collaborating with him, he aims to raise the level of Nigerian basketball not only on the international stage but also at the local level. He has big plans, and I hope people realize that.
If they win an Olympic medal, few will question the process.
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