Uzoh brings a high IQ for Hoopers’ BAL campaign

Uzoh, a Jack of all trades on the court

IN their quest to be the continent’s best in the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL), which takes place in Kigali, Rwanda (May 16), Rivers Hoopers of Nigeria have tooled up for their campaign.

Given the magnitude of the tournament, adding a few sharp implements for the battle is par for the course. So, having landed the signature of experienced D’ Tigers point guard Ben Uzoh was a massive coup for Hoopers.

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Ben Uzoh will bring a high level of competitiveness for Hoopers in the BAL tournament. Pictures: FIBA

Uzoh, who has yet to join up with his teammates for the tournament, gave some insights into what led to him joining Rivers Hoopers. The 33-year-old floor general had caught the eye of other clubs before signing for the Nigerian club.

“There were other teams that had got in touch with me. One of my younger brothers, who was looking to play in the BAL, asked me to reach out to some contacts in Nigeria for him. I reached out to head coach Ogoh Oduadu on my brother’s behalf, but they were interested in me. I just ended up negotiating terms, and we agreed on a deal. So that’s how it materialised,” said the Houston-born Uzoh.

The Hoopers will draw from the wealth of experience carried by Uzoh, who has had short stints in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and stops in Europe and Mexico. Internationally he was part of the Nigeria D’ Tigers team that won the 2015 AfroBasket held in Tunisia and played at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

While Uzoh’s CV makes for good reading, his primary concern is that he blends in well with his teammates.

“I hope we can pick on some good chemistry in a situation like this. We don’t have a lot of time to get used to each other. Thankfully we do have time to prepare for our matches. So hopefully, the chemistry can be quickly acclimated so that we can put in a good performance night in and night out,” said the former Tulsa Golden Hurricanes player.

 

 

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While Hoopers have added Uzoh, Uganda’s Robinson Opong (small forward), and Americans Chris Daniels (centre) and Taren Sullivan (small forward), the new players come into a team short on match fitness. The lack of games was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while things have opened up in Nigeria, the local league has yet to resume.

The lack of games to prepare for the BAL is lamentable, but Uzoh has taken the situation in his stride. He also expects that his teammates will also adopt a similar attitude.

“I think three-and-half weeks at this point is more than enough time to be in good shape. Hopefully, the guys have been doing a lot of things on their own,” said Uzoh.

He also believes that players should have an attitude of accountability ahead in preparation for the tournament.

Ben Uzoh feature picture
Ben Uzoh hopes he can build good chemistry with his teammates.

“You have to rely on experience. You have to take care of your body day in and day out. We are all professionals at this particular point in our lives. You have to respect the game to a certain extent. It’s natural to worry, but I don’t want to worry about it too much,” said Uzoh.

A lot will rest on Uzoh’s shoulders, as the Port Harcourt-based team will rely on his experience to have a successful campaign in Rwanda. With the career that he has had, Uzoh is familiar with such situations, and he expects to maintain his high standard of play throughout the tournament.

“My contribution to the team will be no different from my previous teams. I can contribute to the team in terms of leadership, basketball IQ and personality perspective. I am a jack of all trades. A guy that can do a little bit of everything on the court,” said Uzoh.

Judging from Uzoh’s confidence, and going by his playing experience, Hoopers have landed a polished gem. Now he will be expected to deliver glittering performances in Kigali.

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