NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – After earning a first ever qualification to the FIBA Afrobasket tournament in 28 years, the national men’s basketball team, the Kenya Morans, want to go for the final tournament in Kigali in August and compete, not just participate.
Kenya picked a qualifying ticket for the fourth time in its history and a first since 1993 when they hosted the tournament and finished fourth.
“We just don’t want to go there and participate but we want to go and compete. The work does not end here (after qualification) but we must now go back and work harder to get better results. We are not satisfied. We are hungry and we still want more,” skipper Griffin Ligare stated.
His sentiments were echoed by power forward Ariel Okal who added; “It has not been an easy journey and we started with small steps. It’s mission accomplished for qualification and now, the harder part begins.”
The Kenya Morans qualified after sensationally beating 11-time African champions Angola 74-73 in their second qualifying match in Cameroon.
They had beaten Mozambique in the first leg of the qualifiers in Kigali, Rwanda, last year and only needed one win in the second round of qualification to seal a ticket to the final tournament.
They lost the opener against Senegal by fine margins, but put up a display to beat Angola courtesy of a buzzer-beating jump shot from Tyler Okari. They lost their last match against Mozambique, but it didn’t matter less as they had already qualified.
“It’s a good feeling and I don’t even have the right words to express how we feel as a team. It’s big for us as a country because it is the first time in 28 years that we have qualified for Afrobasket. We are so proud of this. Angola is one of the African giants in basketball and getting a chance to qualify after beating them makes it even sweeter,” an excited Ligare stated.
In the first round of qualification in Kigali, Kenya had to do without three key players; Preston Bungei still didn’t have his paperwork sorted by FIBA, Joel Awich wasn’t cleared to leave France while Tom ‘Bush’ Wamukota was blocked from playing after a COVID-19 tussle as he arrived from DR Congo.
It was sweet victory for Wamukota who was eventually part of the winning team in Yaounde.
“It was about time that we qualified. 28 years is a long time and we are pleased to qualify. We are here to stay and we are not going just to participate. We want to prove that we are great too,” Wamukota noted.