Late last month, Nigeria’s Women’s National basketball team made history when they beat Greece 57-56 in the FIBA World Cup in San Cristobal de la Laguna, Spain.
The win put Nigeria’s women’s team in the history books when they became the first African team to reach the World Cup quarterfinals.
To give you a point a reference, the tournament was first hosted by Chile in 1953.
While the win was grandeious, Nigeria’s head basketball coach, Otis Hughley got the shock of his life hours after the big win.
His family had been involved in an automobile accident back home in the United States.
According to reports, while sitting at a stop sign on a highway in suburban Atlanta, Hughley’s wife, two daughters, youngest son and mother-in-law’s SUV was struck by a car that ran a stop sign.
“I got a phone call from my daughter and she was hysterical,” Hughley recounted last night via phone.
“I thought she was excited because we won.”
Hughley’s family was rushed to a nearby hospital. “I saw a picture of the car and I just lost it,” he said.
While Hughley was overseas and devastated in Spain, Nigeria still had a game to play against the United States’ women’s basketball team. That team was led by notable WNBA players like the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird, New York Liberty’s Tina Charles and Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne. “I was gonna go home on the next thing smokin,” said Hughley.
“But my wife told me: ‘don’t do it.’”
In between coaching preparations, team meetings and much needed sleep, Hughley continued to check in with his family by phone. “It was a real, real, critical time,” he said.
“Everybody had to go to the hospital. I kept calling back, calling back.”
Hughley took over the helm as head coach of Nigeria after the departure of Sam Vincent, a member of the 1986 Boston Celtics’ championship team and a former head coach of the-then-Charlotte Bobcats.
Hughley is no stranger to the hoops scene. With stints as a coach on national teams like China, Hughley’s developed NBA big men like Brook Lopez, Al Jefferson, Zach Randolph and Tyson Chandler.
Hughley was also on the Golden State Warriors’ staff during the Mark Jackson era and was lured into coaching by Bob Hurley, coaching royalty at the now-closed Saint Anthony’s High School of Jersey City, NJ.
While Nigeria did lose to Team U.S.A., 71-40, they did hold onto a slight lead at the end of the first quarter. But, Team USA came alive and Nigeria was no match for the three-headed monster of Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and A’ja Wilson.
Stewart finished the game with 19 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists, Charles had 8 points, 15 rebounds and 3 assists and Wilson finished the game with 11 points and 6 rebounds.
Ezinne Kalu led all Nigeria’s scorers with 8 points and 6 assists. Evelyn Akhator contributed 8 points and 5 rebounds in the loss.
“To venture as far as they did, they exceeded expectations,” said Hughley of Nigeria.
Four-time NBA All Star, DeMarcus Cousins of the Golden State Warriors congratulated Nigeria and Hughley via Twitter. Hughley coached Cousins at LeFlore Magnet High School in Mobile, Alabama. The two would later reunite on the pro-level during Cousins’ Sacramento Kings playing days. Hughley was an assistant under head coach, Paul Westphal, back then.
Big congrats to my high school coach Otis Hughley on Nigeria Women’s National Team’s run during the FIBA World Cup. 1st time in history an African team won a game in the World Cup let alone making it to the quarterfinals! Started ranked #42 and finished 8th in world! 🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/hGmuZXvQVQ
— DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) October 4, 2018
DeMarcus Cousins’ Twitter shoutout was touching to Hughley. “It’s huge,” he said.
“Because he’s really tied up into getting ready for the season. He’s still working on getting back on schedule, so it speaks to his character and his heart and how he cares about people. I love him as a son and for him to reciprocate that is huge because he’s a good dude.”
If you’re keeping score at home, Cousins is coming off of a serious Achilles’ injury that will likely sideline him until January or February. When he returns, he’ll get back on the floor with his new teammates, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.
“It’s like play-doh,” Cousins told me last month.
“You can mold them into whatever you want them to be.”
As for Hughley and his family; everyone is safe!
Hughley’s wife is a survivor of a brain aneurysm. She had a spine and neck injury in last month’s car accident. She’s expected to make a full recovery. “It was a real scary time,” said Hughley.
“But thankfully, everybody went home from the hospital the next day.”
As for Team Nigeria, Hughley is excited for what’s next. “We were able to hold the U.S. to nine first quarter points,” he said.
“Our girls had some resolve!”