Nneka Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP, who was banned from the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, wants to play for Nigeria, her parents’ homeland, at the Tokyo Games.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation tweeted on Tuesday that Ogwumike, who is believed to have dual citizenship, is among the 15 finalists on the 12-woman list, along with his sisters Chiney and Erica.
Ogwumike is not yet eligible to play for Nigeria but is hoping to get clearance from FIBA, the international basketball governing body, according to ESPN.com.
“I just wanted to bet on myself and also be part of an organization that puts me first,” Ogwumike said, according to the report. “My take was like, ‘If it’s not impossible, I’m going to go.’ Because I believe I have Olympic status and I intend to be an Olympian.
USA Basketball confirmed on Tuesday that it was informed after the selection of its Olympic team last month that Ogwumike “will explore the option of competing for Nigeria”.
USA Basketball had to approve a possible change of nationality under international rules and supported it, a spokesperson said.
“However, the final approval comes from FIBA,” the spokesperson said.
FIBA and the Ogwumike agency did not respond to messages sent Tuesday afternoon requesting more information.
The United States and Nigeria meet in their first match at the Tokyo Olympics on July 27. They are also playing an exhibition game in Las Vegas on July 18 at 5:30 p.m. ET on the Olympic Channel.
Ogwumike, a 31-year-old who was part of America’s last two teams for the world championships in 2014 and 2018, has been sidelined with a knee injury since her last game for the Los Angeles Sparks on June 1. The US Olympic team has been announced. June 21st.
“It breaks me. It really breaks my heart that Nneka is not on this team, and it has everything to do with having to make a decision today, ”said the US head coach. Dawn Staley, who is not on the USA Basketball selection committee, said after the team’s nomination. “If we had to make a decision in a month’s time, I’m sure she would be in good health. But it breaks my heart because I know that’s one of the things she wanted to do. She came to every training camp. She has been a great voice in our training camps, in our practices, and Nneka will certainly be missed.
Ogwumike started three of the six games at the 2018 FIBA World Cup and was the most-used player in that tournament not making the Tokyo Olympic roster.
She was also the most used player at the 2014 FIBA World Cup not part of the 2016 Olympic team (where the two-time Olympic champion Candace Parker was the most prominent player, later said she would no longer play for USA Basketball).
Ogwumike’s chances of making the Olympic squad were bolstered not only by Parker’s decision, but also more recently due to injuries that ruled out the Rio Olympians. Elena Delle Donne and Angel McCoughtry, the retirement of the triple Olympic champion Seimone Auguste and double gold medalist Maya mooreindefinite leave from competitive basketball.
“It was more of an injury than a shock, because I had been through it before,” Nneka said of not making the Olympic squad for Tokyo, according to ESPN. “But there are decisions made in this life that you cannot control. I allowed myself to feel the pain, but as I continued I decided, “I’m going to try to take matters into my own hands.”
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