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Coach Owuor confident as anxious Kenya seeks to return to AfroBasket

By Lynette Matheka
Thursday, June 11th, 2020
Kenya Morans player Taylor Okal (right) takes on South Sudan’s Makuel Jambo in a past Africa Zone Five basketball playoff match at Nyayo National Stadium. Photo/PD/DAVID NDOLO

Lynette Matheka and Agencies

Kenya coach Cliff Owuor is optimistic the country has a strong chance to return to the continental showpiece after 27 years, as they prepare individually for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 qualifiers.

Owuor, who guided Kenya to their first-ever podium finish when they earned a silver medal during the inaugural FIBA AfroCan show in Mali last year, remains upbeat about his team’s chances.

After an online meeting with the team, Owuor introduced a new training schedule for his players, and received positive feedback.

He said that he is closely following the progress of his players ahead of the championships slated for November.

“I have assigned them workouts via video, they will send it back to me for assessment and advice.

I want everyone to be fully fit when the team finally assembles for training,” Owuor said.

With the coronavirus pandemic halting global sporting activities, Owuor said the self-discipline of the players during this time will be crucial when action finally resumes.

“The discipline of the players is important at this point. They must all take care of their daily trainings before the pandemic ends,” Owuor said.

Kenya’s Group B opponents are Angola, Mozambique and Senegal. Owuor said they will organize friendly matches and have targeted Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo to tune their preparations.

Kenya booked their ticket for the November event by winning the six-team FIBA Africa Zone Five pre-qualifier in Nairobi in January. They beat out Burundi, Eritrea, South Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania.  

Coach Cliff Owuor settled for a squad largely composed of players who had done duty in the Afro-CAN qualifiers and tournament. Additionally, he had the fresh hands of last season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Victor Bosire, France-based Robert Nyakundi and Strathmore University’s Fidel Okoth. Faheem Juma who was unused in Afro-CAN in Mali also made cut.

Going by the six teams’ performances in the initial days of the round-robin competition, it was evident the battle would come down to Morans fighting for the slot against an impressive South Sudan. 

Unlike Owuor, who had only four players plying their trade outside the country,  the Luol-Deng led South Sudan boasted a squad that had only one local based player, Athiey Lwal. 

Four of South Susan’s players were Australia-based,  two based in Mexico and as many in the USA and Spain. One more player was Maldives-based.  -Additional reporting by Xinhua