Is Amukamara the baller that can keep D’Tigress on the road to Sydney? – FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournaments Belgrade, Serbia 2022
BELGRADE (Serbia) – A loss of a leader always hurts, but the absence of a true heartbeat like Ezinne Kalu is a major headache for Nigeria and yet Promise Amukamara could be about to offer some pain relief.
When the reigning African champions step out at the FIBA Women’s Qualifying Tournaments, coping without their usual standout playmaker is likely to be their biggest challenge. Kalu has been outstanding during their recent rise to global prominence and while she stays on the sidelines recovering from surgery, opportunity knocks.
And, ready to answer the call is likely to be 1.75m (5’9″) point guard Amukamara, who fortunately for Nigeria, at 28-years-old is no ordinary understudy. In fact, she netted an eye-catching 10 points per game at Tokyo 2020 and has shown the potential to take on even more responsibility for carrying the team.
“It’s a tough loss not have Ezinne (Kalu) with us for the tournament, but we have some players (like Promise) who can do the things that we need on the court,” stressed Nigeria head coach, Otis Hughley.
“We will just have to play a little differently and also because we feel a little beat up with everything right now,” he added.
The China test
Without doubt, Amukamara will be pitched straight into the fire. The heat of any backcourt battle is not likely to be any more fierce in Group B than when Nigeria open up against China at 15.00 on Thursday.
The collective defensive intensity of Liwei Yang, Yuan Li and Siyu Wang in particular will be relentless and how Amukamara copes with that could go a long way to determining whether Nigeria can get off to a positive start.
There’s a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, but with China red hot favorites, it’s looking more and more likely that the last ticket in the pool could be a winner-takes-all Continental matchup on Sunday with Mali.
In the meantime, Mali get their Group B campaign underground when they tip-off against France at 18:00 CET.