Morans in Senegal for continental qualifiers oozing with confidence
National men’s basketball team Morans left the country yesterday morning for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal.
Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) Secretary General Ambrose Kisoi disclosed that Morans were scheduled to leave the country in the wee hours of Tuesday but the journey was aborted after the Ministry of Sports failed to release funds on time.
“The team was supposed to travel on Tuesday morning but the ticketing was not done. We were waiting for the Sports Fund but now we are happy the fund has been released and the team has left for Dakar. Forward, Fidel Okoth one of the rising stars in the team, believes he has come of age and warned that Kenya will be unstoppable in the three-day show that tips off in Dakar February 25-27.
Okoth remains confident of the team’s chances and is ready to play a pivotal role in their quest to book a slot in the global spectacle for the first time in their history.
“I believe with focus and aggressiveness like what we had in Mali in 2019 and it will be difficult to stop the Morans,” Okoth said.
To achieve that, Morans will have to shake off Egypt, DR Congo and host Senegal in Group D to progress. The Pharaohs and the Lions have played at that level before.
“My graph has been going up and my game has grown tremendously,” Okoth says as he continues to push for more minutes and recognition as a top gun.
And now with the kind of exposure he has gained turning out for the team since his debut in 2018, he is convinced the time to stand up and be counted is now.
“I am more confident with Morans any day,” he says, adding the opponents now know the team’s strengths better after the  FIBA AfroBasket in Kigali, Rwanda last August.
At 25 years, Okoth who debuted for Morans in 2018, during a friendly against Rwanda in Kigali, is the second youngest member of the team.
and one of the players expected to strongly beak into the side in the future.
“It was exciting and a little tense, I hadn’t played in a stadium fully packed with fans. Despite this tense moment, I managed to score 12 points and 10 rebounds,” he recalls.
“Kenya lost the tie but this game really motivated me to get better and it builds my confidence.”
His first competitive national assignment came a year later in a FIBA Africa Zone Five championships in Kampala, Uganda. Kenya topped the show by beating Egypt 97-79 for the first time in history.
This result took Kenya to the inaugural FIBA AfroCan in Bamako, Mali where they made their first podium finish, bagging silver after going down 82-61 to DR Congo in the finals.
That was the starting point for Okoth who has not looked back since becoming a regular member of the team. He has maintained his place by continually working hard and the progress is encouraging.
His has continued to impress whenever called upon after outings in both the FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers in Kigali in 2020 and Yaounde, Cameroon in 2021 as well as the continental championship again hosted by Rwanda.
During the championship, Kenya played against giants Nigeria and Cote d Ivoire losing 71-55 and 88-77 respectively before beating Mali 72-66.
The 2.05m (6ft 8in) forward came off the bench in all the four games but was impressed with his showing he logged 14 minutes and wound up with 5 points and picked up four rebounds.
But of the four matches Kenya played that included a 60-58 defeat to debutants South Sudan in the Classification Round to the Quarter-Finals, the memories of the Nigeria match will remain etched
in his mind forever.
“I came in as a substitute and we fought back in the game to close the range before half-time and I made a big contribution,” he noted.
“Against Cote d’Ivoire, I also came in as a substitute and scored a three-pointer on my first possession. This elevated my aggression in that game,” he recalls.
“I hadn’t got a chance to play early in the game, so for me it was a big deal that I show up whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“My confidence and IQ has greatly increased and now I am more motivated to compete.”
Okoth, who plies his trade in Oman for Ahli Sidab alongside another Kenyan Okall Koranga, started his career at Strathmore University Blades.
He has also played for Uganda giants City Oilers and also moved to Tanzania for a stint with Savio Don Bosco. all the experience gathered in that process will be a plus for Morans.