April 24, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; New Orleans Hornets small forward Al-Farouq Aminu (0) warms up before the game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
Nigeria will be featured in the Olympic men's basketball tournament for the first time ever, thanks to Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu.
Nigeria is one of the nations making its Olympic debut in men's basketball in London. The Nigerians qualified through the last-chance tournament in Venezuela in early July, surprising just about everyone by eliminating recent European powerhouse Greece in the quarterfinals and beating an Al Horford-led Dominican Republic in the third-place game to earn the Olympic berth.
Led by Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu, Nigeria is a part of the wave of teams who have heavily recruited NCAA and NBA players with ties to the nation. Instead of focusing on homegrown talents, Nigeria and other nations have "recruited" players who never lived in the country or played in their youth teams in international competition. Diogu, a former Arizona State standout who played with a number of NBA teams, including the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers, was born in Buffalo. His parents emigrated from Nigeria in 1980, three years before his birth. Diogu hadn't played for Nigeria until this Olympic cycle.
Aminu's story is similar. He's from Atlanta, attended Wake Forest and was a lottery pick in 2010. His parents, though, are Nigerian, and he signed up to play for the nation leading up the Olympics, even though a trip to London looked like a longshot just weeks ago. (Aminu's older brother Alade, a former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, also plays on the team.)
Nigeria's third star, Tony Skinn, is also most well-known for American exploits: the point guard led George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. But Skinn, who hopes to again experience a stunning, improbable string of wins as Nigeria heads to London, was actually born in Lagos, Nigeria. Since leaving George Mason, he has played professionally in France, Italy and Germany.
Here's more on Nigeria at a glance.
FIBA World Ranking: No. 21
Previous Olympic appearances: None
Place at 2010 FIBA World Championship: Did not qualify
How they got here: Third place in Afrobasket 2011, third place in Olympic qualifying tournament
Names you might recognize: Ike Diogu, Al-Farouq Aminu, Alade Aminu, Tony Skinn, Ekene Ibekwe.
Biggest group games: vs. Tunisia (July 29), vs. Lithuania (July 31)
Medal hopes: Quite slim
Future outlook: Wholly dependent on Al-Farouq Aminu's development