Nigerian coach’s family in auto accident back in US
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LA LAGUNA, Spain (AP) — Nigeria coach Otis Hughley Jr. had other things on his mind as his team pulled off another last-second victory and beat Greece on Wednesday.
He had found out hours earlier that his family had been in a car accident just outside Atlanta. No one suffered any major injuries, according to the coach.
“I got a phone call and I remember my daughter was screaming franticly,” he said after practice Thursday. “My wife’s neck and spine were injured. She already is a survivor of having an aneurysm, three massive strokes and had brain surgery. She had to learn to read and write all over again. She can’t work anymore.”
Hughley didn’t get much sleep but kept it from his team because he didn’t want it to be a distraction before the biggest game in the country’s history.
“You see the condition of the car, it’s totaled,” he said. “My mother-in-law, wife, two daughters and youngest son. Someone ran a stop sign and was going pretty fast.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Nigeria forward Sarah Imovbioh will see a familiar face or two on the U.S. sideline when the two teams play Friday night in the quarterfinals.
Imovbioh played a year at South Carolina under coach Dawn Staley in 2015-16 after transferring from Virginia. She helped the Gamecocks to a 33-2 record, including a 16-0 mark in the Southeastern Conference. A’ja Wilson was a teammate.
“Never, never, never, never saw this coming,” Imovbioh said of playing against her former coach and teammate. “It is family versus family. She’s like a parent to me. She took care of me while I was in South Carolina. She’s like family to me. I’m looking forward to this.”
Staley echoed her former player’s sentiments.
“Always a proud moment when I have a chance to play with or against people who have been a part of our Gamecock family,” Staley said. “Super proud of Sarah and the entire Nigerian team for kicking down some doors that hadn’t been opened before. At the same time it is family versus family tomorrow in the quarterfinals. I love family, but winning is what we came here to do.”
Imovbioh was also proud to play against Nneka Ogwumike, who is of Nigerian descent.
“Before we started the tournament she sent us a couple of messages to fire us up,” she said. “She’s kept in contact. She’s really excited for us and really proud of us.”
Sue Bird is only 14 assists short of passing Dawn Staley for the all-time lead in USA Basketball World Cup history. There might need to be an asterisk next to that mark, though. In 2014, FIBA started crediting assists to players if a pass led to someone getting fouled and making one of the two free throws.
Bird was unaware of the change, but thinking like a true point guard, feels it makes sense.
“Some have argued in the past it should be an assist. I can see both sides of the argument. It’s FIBA’s choice so I’ll take it,” said the WNBA’s all-time assist leader. “It’s funny, in the circle of life, if you will, sometimes you make amazing passes and people miss the layup, sometimes you make crappy passes and they make the shot anyway. Sometimes you just were the one to give them the ball. I think it all evens out.”
Staley, who had 103 assists in her World Cup career, joked that she might hold Bird out if she was within reach of the coach’s mark. But she also would be honored if Bird was the one who break her mark.
“If I lose to anybody, I would much rather it be Sue Bird and her decorated career,” Staley said. “At the same time, I could have a hand in history in keeping her out of games so I can keep my title. I have to think about that. I get the stat sheet after every quarter. I’ll be keeping track of it.”
Life has been pretty easy so far for Australia star Liz Cambage. She is averaging a tournament best 27.7 points a game while playing only 20 minutes.
Whether she decides to come back to the WNBA next year to play for the Dallas Wings isn’t high on her priority list right now. She’ll decide when she’s ready.
“I haven’t played a year of basketball straight for a long, long time. My body comes first,” Cambage said. “This is my vessel and you have to take care of your vessel. It’s all about mind, body and spirit for me, I come first.”
The coaching change at the end of the season didn’t sit well with Cambage. Dallas fired coach Fred Williams with about a week left in the season after an argument occurred between Williams and team president Greg Bibb.
“What happened with Fred was honestly heartbreaking,” Cambage said. “What went down, what we all heard, we were in the locker room. That isn’t easy for a young team to go through.”
Cambage said she’s still in contact with Williams.
“That’s my dude, that’s my man. I got big love for Fred. He still emails me and texts me. I miss him,” she said. “He’s the reason I came back. He was the one who filled me with so much confidence and love. He’s the reason I came back to the WNBA. What went down does play a big factor.”
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg