Germany's Okulaja Optimistic About Chances

25 August 2005
By Simon Wilkinson, PA Sport

Ademola Okulaja and Germany have unfinished business at September's EuroBasket.

Two years ago in Sweden, the Germans were trumpeted as possible gold medal winners after snatching bronze at the FIBA World Championship the previous year, but they disappointed, failing to even make the quarter-finals.

Okulaja, a 30-year-old forward, led the way for the national side with averages of 13.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in Scandinavia when the side`s main attraction, NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, was not 100% fit.

Ademola Okulaja
Nowitzki is fit and raring to go this time, but Okulaja should still play a pivotal role.

Okulaja and Patrick Femerling are carrying injuries going into the tournament, but the former, who played college basketball for the North Carolina Tar Heels nearly a decade ago, believes Germany`s chances are much better than in 2003.

"I think we're a better side simply because of the fact that we have more experience," he said.

"We have played together more in these past two years and a lot of the guys are in their best years of playing basketball.

"They're at the age when they're reaching the high point of their careers."

Okulaja sees no outright favourite to win the tournament.

"I think it's not out of any team's reach, really," he said.

"But as far as Germany is concerned, I think we need to see this tournament as a way for us to further our development. If we can do that, we will get some results."

"Going far enough in this tournament to gain a place for next year's World Championships in Japan is a goal we'd like to achieve.

"I've never been there (to Japan) and it would be a great experience in basketball terms and also a chance to experience a different culture."

Okulaja was a member of the Germany team which won the bronze medal at FIBA World Championship 2002 in Indianapolis.

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