Atieno eager to break title jinx

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Linet Atieno(#14) in action for KPA at a past Zone Five club championship competition in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo/COURTESY

She has been in the basketball scene since 2008 and has played at the top league since 2009, but the premier league trophy remains elusive to Linet Atieno.

As the country gears towards re-opening and the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) 2020/21 season finally jumping off, Atieno has set her sight on finally breaking the jinx and lifting the coveted title with her current club, Sprite Storms.

Atieno, a league champion with Seychelles’ Mount Fleuri, has turned out for five local teams including her parent club Mennonites, the now defunct Co-operative Bank’s Kingdom Queens, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Masaku Sparks and now Storms but has come so close yet so far to lifting the local title.

“I have won the league elsewhere but I am yet to celebrate that milestone at home. I am very eager to achieve that and working very hard towards it.

As a team, we have set our minimum targets for the season, which is at least reaching the final.

I have remained active even at this time when the country is fighting this coronavirus pandemic.

I do fitness drills on my own then make time for shooting practice with coach Abel Nson,” Atieno told People Daily.

With her favourite position being a big man and possessing a lethal three-point shot, this was not Atieno’s dream as a child.

Unlike many athletes who get into the sport while in high school or even earlier, her love for basketball was cultivated in adulthood.

“I never played basketball in high school. I was first introduced to the sport by KPA’s Brenda Angeshi, who was my school mate at St Bridget Catholic Primary in Nairobi, while in class seven.

I joined her for few training sessions but lost interest and went back to my first love, football,” Atieno revealed.

In high school, at Ringa Girls in Oyugis, she continued playing football as well as volleyball.

Back in Nairobi, she had played for one of the most sought after football academies, Mathare Youth Sports Academy (MYSA) as a striker.

“I still consider football my first sport.  At some point I considered playing both disciplines but professional basketball meant alot of travelling so I stuck with basketball.

However, I still play football to help with my footwork on court.  In high school I was also into poetry and public speaking.

I did well in the two and presented my school at the national level,” said Atieno. 

Out to pass time, having cleared high school and back in Nairobi,  Atieno attend ed a basketball clinic at Mennonite Centre in Eastleigh.

Here, her journey to being one of the best big men in the African basketball scene began.

“Coach Edson Mugisha saw me shooting and called me to his office and these were his exact words.: You are going to be a star and a force to reckon with in Kenyan basketball.

Just be ready to learn and work hard’. From that day, back in 2008, to 2011, I was training daily,  six days a week at Mennonites under coach Mugisha.

He patiently molded me to the basketballer I am today,” added Atieno.

In 2008, Mennonites we were promoted to the premier league. Young Atieno was voted the best shooter and most promising player in the lower league that year.

She says coach Mugisha’s meticulous training in basketball basics has carried her through her career.

Additionally, she credits coach Nson for taking over from Mugisha and polishing her skills.

Atieno jumped ship from her mother club to Kingdom Queens, then under coach Nson, in 2012 . She represented the bankers for two season before moving to Mombasa-based KPA for a season under coach Antony Ojukwu.

While at the dockers, she qualified for the Africa Club championship and that opened doors for her first professional deal.

“We played at the African Club Championship in Tunisia and I ended up landing a contract with First Bank of Nigeria under coach Aderemi ‘Owolo’ Adewunmi.

Seychelles expressed interest first but delayed in sending the contract so I signed for the Nigerian team since they were eager to have me in their team,” Atieno explained.

She continued, “The league was competitive. Players there are skilled and have the height and body to muscle up for the ball.

Unlike Kenya, Nigerians play contact basketball.  At first it was hard but that pushed me to be more competitive as I adjusted.

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