*We are where we planned to be
Ahead of their fourth group game on Tuesday against Guinea, D’Tigress super star, Evelyn Akhator, is confident of another world class act as the 2017 FIBA Women Afrobasket tournament hots up in Mali.
Akhator who plays as a forward/centre and currently in the books of Dallas Wings in the Women National Basketball Association (WNBA) said despite an impressive outing so far in the competition, she has not fully reached her full potential.
The influential player who started her campaign against Mozambique with 13 points and 6 rebounds before hitting 7 points and catching 9 rebounds against DR Congo climaxed on Sunday against Egypt with 24 points, 5 assists and 13 rebounds.
Speaking after her effort ensured Nigeria became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals Akhator said, “I am just having fun. One thing about basketball is that you just have to have fun to be at your best and that is what I have been doing.”
Despite recording a double-double against Egypt, the number 3 pick in the 2017 WNBA draft is not carried away by her performances so far at the competition as she is fully focused on the games ahead.
“I don’t care about the scores, we just play every opposition at a time and that is what I have been doing and I think it’s been working not just for me but also for the team.”
She expressed satisfaction with the team’s display after a good outing which saw them blowing out their Egyptian opposition with a 106 points to 72 win.
According to her, opponents who underrated them due to their size have continued to regret it.
Speaking about the team’s chances of winning the tournament and booking an automatic ticket to the 2018 FIBA World cup, Akhator said the team is not getting ahead of themselves with two more group games to play.
Akhator concluded that if the team is to stand a reasonable chance of winning the tournament, they need to focus more on their transition defence and offence.
“I think we are going to learn from our mistakes and get better. Every game is a learning experience for us. Against Egypt, we noticed we needed to take care of the ball more, we needed to reduce our turnovers and that was exactly what we did.”
The game will take place at 11:45am (local time) on Tuesday.
Akhator’s team mate, and D’Tigress pointguard, Sarah Ogoke, is feeling good about the tournament’s results so far for the team.
The game against Guinea at the Palais Des Sports Salamatou, Maiga, Bamako, the RC Celta Vigo of Spain player declared that they are exactly where they planned to be before the tournament started.
“We have won three matches and qualified for the quarter finals, we have a match against Guinea and the match that everybody is looking forward to against defending champions (Senegal) on Tuesday.”
Ogoke who started all the three games played so far by the team is optimistic that the team can maintain their momentum and finish top of group B housing defending champion-Senegal, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea.
She admitted that the team under the guidance of Coach Sam Vincent may not be one of the biggest and tallest teams at the 2017 edition of the tournament which serves off as qualifiers for the 2018 FIBA World cup but they are definitely one of the teams to beat.
She believes that the team is the most balanced and technically sound side compared to other 11 countries who are vying for honours at the 2017 edition of the apex women competition in Africa.
“We have the deepest roaster and that has been one of our biggest attribute as a team. We can play fast for the whole 40 minutes because you know you have to give everything you have because somebody as good as you are is on the bench to replace you when you are tired.”
The D’Tigress regular who has averaged 10.3points so far in 3 games is looking forward to improving on her shooting accuracy and score more points for the team.
“Although, I am consistently shooting about 50% from the 3 point line right about now, I am looking forward to improving as the tournament progresses.
“Travel can affect you, the altitude, the food amongst other things that can contribute to your performance, but it’s a long tournament and I am looking forward to improving my shooting percentage,” Ogoke concluded.