Miye oni‘s favorite Nigerian food is banquet yam with egusi soup served with oxtail.
It’s a Nigerian dish that you’ll probably get, especially the beef tail portion. It is a dish that can be found in classic restaurants and run-down bucks, and it is a staple in most Nigerian homes.
Oni can understand the Yoruba language, and while his “ese o” is spoken with an American accent, there is no doubt that he grew up in a Nigerian home with Nigerian values.
He can not speak pidgin English, but to have Burna Boy and Wizkid among his favorite musicians more than to compensate for it.
Oni, like most other children of first-generation Nigerian immigrants, has been a target for Nigeria’s basketball federation as they try to rebuild the NBA talent program.
But things took a turn for the worse with the appointment of Golden State Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown in 2019. His outreach, profile and willingness to scout, persuade and cast spells has accelerated the process and convinced Oni, Jahlil Okafor and others to commit to the Nigeria team.
But the Jazz Guard tells ESPN that it was more a matter of when, not if, for him.
“It just wasn’t the right time,” he said. “Things did not work then. But now is the perfect time and I am ready to represent Nigeria at the Olympics in Tokyo.”
And now that it has finally happened, he says pulling in the green and white strip was hugely important to his parents.
“They were really proud. It’s important to them. They always teach me about Nigerian culture and everything like that. So it’s been important to them and something I dreamed of and something that my whole family is excited about.”
Oni made their competitive debut for the D’Tigers when they fell 67-84 in a blue marking match against Australia in their opening match at the Olympics. But disappointed when he was over the result, it was overshadowed by something bigger – the pride of representing the motherland.
“For me, it meant the world,” Oni said. “My mother was born there, the country my father has lived in. I have been there. It means a lot to me and my family that we carry that pride everywhere we go.
“So just being able to represent this country with all this rich history and really try to make this country proud means a lot to me.”
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Nigeria’s ambition to go to Tokyo was to medal. Coach Brown has made it very clear and the players have bought themselves into goals. But losing to Australia, especially after two show victories against the United States and Argentina, gave the team a reality check. They must now press the reset button.
“Every game becomes a war and a challenge. It was what we expected and it has not changed,” said Oni.
“We just have to play our toughest and not really worry about our opponent, just worry about what we can control and play our toughest to perform where the coach wants us to, and put ourselves in a good position to win every match. “
In those two show wins, the team outscored the U.S. No. 1-ranked and followed it up with another stifling performance against the No. 3-ranked Argentina. But the displays showed different sides of the offensive and defensive arsenal Brown has amassed.
“Just our athletics in general. We are tall, athletic, fast. As Nigerians, that’s what our strength will always be.
“So we can get to the edge and defend. But I think once we get together as a group and really start clicking, we can really be special.”
If they manage to get on the podium, it will be a first for an African nation. But being first is not new to the Nigerian basketball team, especially in the last few years. They became the first African team to qualify for the World Cup, and also became the first African team to beat Team USA.
And with potentially more NBA class talent still to be added in the future, the prospects for Nigerian basketball are promising.
For Oni, all he wants to do is help create history with the D’Tigers.
“I always play hard and I always play the right way with the intensity, the effort, I will always give everything and just try to make the right games every time I step on the pitch and do what our coach asks me to do, I feel “that I could play many different ways. So no matter what the team needs and what a coach asks me to do, I do it and step up from my team.”
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