NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – The Kenya Morans have vowed to do all they can to ensure qualification to the 2021 FIBA Afrobasket championship to be staged in Kigali, when they resume the final round of qualifiers ain Yaounde, Cameroon from February 17-21.
The Morans who will be without head coach Cliff Owuor who has since joined Rwanda’s APR will need to win just one match in the final round of qualification to confirm a ticket for the final tournament in Kigali.
The last time Kenya played at the Afrobasket was in 1993 when they hosted it and managed to finish fourth.
Forward Valentine Nyankinda, speaking to the FIBA Wesbsite says he feels confident that Kenya can go all the way and earn a ticket especially after how they performed in the first round of qualifiers in Kigali.
Nyakinda had huge contributions off the bench in the event. His strength remains his outside shooting and he is also not afraid to hit the boards for the rebound.
The team, he explained, learnt from the mistakes they committed and will completely put on a different show this time round.
“In Kigali, it was our first time playing such big names, but now we are familiar with the situation and will not be shaken. What we also learnt is that it is just the same basketball,” he said to FIBA.basketball after a training session at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.
Nyakinda, who plays for Kenya Ports Authority, went on saying that a return to the AfroBasket for the first time since 1993 is a reality not a dream.
The 2.01m (6ft 7in) shooting forward, who joined the national side in 2014 and has not looked back since, points out that the best is yet to come.
“Our chances are very good,” he insisted, adding: “We are working hard to achieve that goal. What we need to do is just to train hard and must be locked in mentally.”
In the Kigali qualifiers, Kenya made a false start against Senegal, one of the continent’s top ranked sides losing 92-54 after trailing by a close 58-52 margin at the end of the third quarter.
Nyakinda and Arial Okal combination pegged down Senegal during that period before but Kenya went into a drought managing only two points in a massive fourth quarter collapse.
“It was our first time playing such a big name and we did not know what to expect. We just didn’t play well in that fourth quarter,” the 28-year-old pointed out.
He continued: “They were only six points ahead as we started the last stanza. We were tired. We made mistakes and got punished as they just blew us out.”
In the make or break game against Mozambique, he delivered beyond everyone’s expectations. And this came after coach Cliff Owuor was forced to adjust his line-up after center Desmond Owili was pulled out with an injury.
Nyakinda logged 28:02 minutes and ended up with 16 points, the second highest tally after Kenya’s best player in Kigali Tyler Ongwae connected for team high of 21 points.
He was impeccable from the foul line tossing in 4 of 4 and as if that was not enough, he knocked down 3 of 4 three pointers and pulled down four rebounds in that 79-62 triumph.
Kenya are placed third in their group behind leaders and favourites Senegal and second-placed Angola. Mozambique are placed last.
Three teams from the four in the group qualify for the tournament.
Additional info courtesy FIBA.basketball