Nigerian international basketballer Israel Otobo is a man on a mission.
Otobo of Dynamo BBC has made a name for himself in African basketball in just five years, both at the club and national levels, but he is only 19 years old.
Otobo, who stands 2.03 meters (6 feet 8 inches) tall, was honing his skills as a professional football player because that was his dream, but his friends encouraged him to introduce the 14-year-old to basketball because they noticed something different in him.
Otobo never gave the controversy surrounding his height much thought because he was attending a football-focused school in the Nigerian state of Bayelsa. However, he knew he was set to stay when his father, Oyoro Otobo, followed the advice of his friends and enrolled him at Patriot Academy.
Otobo told FIBA.basketball, “I am happy to have gotten a strong foundation for two years in Bayelsa, at the academy, before I moved to Lagos.”
After competing for three other teams in non-league competitions, I made my debut in Nigeria’s top league last year with Nigerian Customs. However, we lost to Kwara Falcons in the championship game, and I was unable to qualify for the Basketball Africa League (BAL) for the first time. Although it was devastating at the time, I was given another chance when I joined Dynamo this season,” Otobo said.
After moving to Burundi, the Nigerian international joined Dynamo BBC for the 2022–2023 season. The team defeated Urunani to win the title they had last won in 2018 and secure a spot in the 2024 BAL qualifiers.
Finishing second in the four-team competition, Dynamo faced hosts Pazi, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), and Elan Coton of Benin in Group C of the preliminary Road to BAL qualifiers held in Tanzania.
By sheer happenstance, the team was given a wild card to compete in the East Division Elite 16 in Johannesburg, where they unexpectedly placed third to secure a spot in the 2024 BAL.
Nineteen years old In the pivotal Third-Place Game against Madagascar’s COSPN, Israel contributed significantly to the team’s victory with an average of 14 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists.
Playing in the Elite 16 was such a huge opportunity, and we couldn’t let it pass without a fight. Otobo stated, “Playing in BAL will open up more career opportunities for me as it is the biggest stage I can represent my team on the continent. Qualifying for BAL is exciting, a dream come true for me.”
“My target is to land a deal outside the continent, either in the US or in Europe and I believe I can take the challenge and become a better player with such an opportunity,” Israel opens up.
Dynamo wrote a unique history since the inception of BAL qualifiers four years ago. The Olivier Ndayiragije-coached team secured the last slot for the fourth BAL season thanks to a nail-biting 79-78 win over COSPN.
The win meant that Dynamo are the first team to benefit from an Elite 16 wild card to qualify for the BAL Finals, and more importantly, they became the first Burundian side to join the continent’s club premier basketball competition; an achievement Otobo admits did not come easy as they almost spoiled it in the tail-end of the clash.
Meanwhile, Otobo who was part of the Nigerian national team that played in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers, playing 3 matches and averaging 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds is hopeful for another call-up.
“I went into the national team as a rookie and honestly, I did not expect much as we have experienced players in that team. I was there to learn while giving my best so being named in the team came as a surprise.
“With the experience gained during the Road to BAL, a second call-up will be highly welcome ahead of the FIBA Afrobasket qualifiers. I believe we have one of the best teams and we will be at the 2025 AfroBasket,” Otobo offered.
Otobo, who participated in three games and averaged 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds while playing for the Nigerian national team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers, is hoping to be called up again.
As a rookie on the national team, I must admit that I had low expectations because that group of players is experienced. “With the experience gained during the Road to BAL, a second call-up will be highly welcomed ahead of the FIBA Afrobasket qualifiers. I was there to learn while giving it my all, so being named in the team came as a surprise.” We will participate in the 2025 AfroBasket, in my opinion, and we have one of the best teams,” Otobo said.