Morans: Shining light in bleak times
In an election year that stakeholders wished for change, including a new Constitution, many activities at Kenya Basketball Federation remained largely dormant due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
FIBA Africa Zone Five Afrobasket pre-qualifiers jumped off what was expected to be a busy year in January. A year that began with the national men’s team, Morans, dreaming of a return to the continental scene is ending with the side one win away from playing at the 2021 AfroBasket scheduled for Rwanda in August 2021.
Morans, up against five other nations, including South Sudan led by former NBA star Luol Deng, continued their good showing from the previous year, at the pre-qualifiers, to book a slot in the qualifiers proper.
The January event saw US-based Robert Nyakundi make his debut for the national team. The forward won the hearts of Kenyans especially in the final match against South Sudan where his basketball IQ and versatility helped Kenya pick the coveted slot to the November qualifiers.
Just a week to the league kick-off, Kenya announced her first Covid-19 positive case and all sporting activities were grounded and even elections remain suspended to date.
Kenya’s basketball scene came back to life in October when coach Cliff Owuor made his call ups to the national team in preparation for the November AfroBasket round one qualifiers.
Up against powerhouses Angola, Senegal and Mozambique, the side had their work cut out and Owuor had included three new professional players in his provisional squad.
Australia-based Preston Bungei, Alonzo Ododa (Portugal) and Joel Switch based in France were supposed to make their debut for Morans as the team looked to increase their chances of making a comeback to the continental competition after a 27-year hiatus.
However, only Bungei managed to honour the call up but ended up travelling to Rwanda for the competition but could not play due to visa hitches.
Despite the shortcomings that saw Kenya miss Bungei and other key players including centre player Tom Wamukota, they picked one win against Mozambique and are one win away from making a return to the AfroBasket. The second round of the qualifiers are scheduled for February 2021.
For their win against Mozambique, Kenya Morans moved up to 115th on the FIBA rankings.
Meanwhile, the months of November and December have seen several tournaments and grassroot leagues resume action.
Fixtures for the 2021 league season are out with action scheduled to begin on January 16.
However, KBF assistant secretary general says that action could be delayed until February to give teams time to regroup while the federation embarks on Covid-19 protocol sensitisation.