In Summary
  • It was befitting that Tyler Okari and Tom Wamukota made the tournament’s all-star “first five” with Okari also emerging as the tournament’s top scorer with 130 points
  • What is clearly needed now is further, and more consistent, exposure and funding for this exciting pool of players and the other young ones coming through
  • Harnessing these opportunities in a structured way will go a long way in cashing in on the success in Bamako to build formidable age-group teams

Against all the odds, Kenya bagged silver at the Africa Basketball Championships (Afrocan 2019) in Bamako, Mali at the weekend, lifting the profile of a sport that teems with unexploited potential.

Perhaps the brilliant run flabbergasted the “Morans” themselves, if we are to judge by their third and fourth quarter capitulation in the 61-82 loss to the Democratic Republic of Congo after battling to grab the lead from the new champions at half-time (37-36).

Never mind that.

What matters is they exceeded all expectations and it was befitting that Tyler Okari and Tom Wamukota made the tournament’s all-star “first five” with Okari (who had a game-high 21 points in the final) also emerging as the tournament’s top scorer with 130 points.

In all their previous appearances in 1985, 1989, 1993, Kenya failed to go past the preliminaries stage and that’s why their appearance in Saturday’s final baffled analysts as the “Morans” made a comeback after 27 years in the cold.

What is clearly needed now is further, and more consistent, exposure and funding for this exciting pool of players and the other young ones coming through.

The Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF), under the chairmanship of the legendary Paul Otula, has done quite well in mobilising finances for the national teams, most significantly through signing of the five-year, Sh100 million broadcast partnership with Badoer Investments (MadGoat TV) who are forking out Sh20 million a year to fund league and national team operations.

The fruits of such investment showed in Bamako.

And with three-on-three basketball now an Olympic sport, KBF now have a lot on their plate and must cash in on the goodwill they have forged to build the structures that will continue to churn out classy players.

With Kenyan high school basketball, thankfully, quite vibrant already, KBF must operationalise a talent development programme and monitor these players through high school and into university and the club game.

There are numerous US collegiate sports scholarships that can benefit Kenyan players and offer them an excellent platform to develop their talent given the pedigree of US basketball.

For instance, a database developed by former national team star Peter Kiganya lists some of the players who have gained exposure in the American collegiate game recently as Omondi Amoke (Fullerton, California), Okari (Louisiana), Wamukota (Wichita), Nyandigisi Moikobo (Idaho), Joel Awich (California), Kenneth Otieno (Alberta, Canada), Chris Senoga Zake (Florida), Robert Nyakundi (Texas) and Ishmael Awange (Texas).

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