Underdog tag not a problem for Bungei
As he prepares to don the national basketball team’s kit at the Afrobasket qualifiers, Preston Bungei believes the squad has enough talent to take on the best in the continent and win.
Standing at 6’6”, Bungei will make his debut for the Morans in the November 25-29 competition where Kenya is set to face off with Senegal, Angola and Mozambique.
Angola are ranked second in Africa (behind Nigeria) and 32nd globally. Senegal are fourth, 35th globally, while Mozambique are 13th in the continent and 93rd globally.
Kenya is ranked 21st continentally and 122nd globally from the last FIBA rankings updated in March this year.
The former Norfolk State University skipper said: “It is a surreal experience being in my father’s country for the first time.
I watched the team a lot on YouTube just to familiarise myself with all the players and they have made me feel welcome since I arrived.
I love their passion, chemistry and how much they want to win. Even while playing amongst ourselves in training no one wants to lose and I honestly think that is what has driven their success lately.”
He continued: “We will be going up against the best competition in Africa as everybody knows we got a tough group but we are going there to win and qualify for the Afrobasket.
We cannot go there with a losing mindset. We have talented guys in camp and with more joining we can do it.”
A versatile player, able to play both as a guard and forward, Bungei adds depth to Cliff Owuor-coached side.
“I am a defensive minded player. I like guarding the best opposing wing player, rebounding. I like to get out on transition, making runs.
Whatever I can do to help the team win. I am coming in ready to do whatever the coach asks of me,” he added.
Bungee says that he has been an underdog in his basketball journey and has had to work to prove he is capable and that will not be any different as he makes his debut in the national team.
“I was not a star player. In high school I got just one scholarship and had to work myself up.
As we head to Rwanda, my biggest attribute is staying humble. I will approach this competition just like any other game, with confidence but not cockiness,” Bungei intimated.
The 25-year old most recently featured for HKK Capljina in Bosnia and Herzegovina where he joined in September 2019 and was playing until March of this year.
He won defensive player of the year and was named in the Third Team All-League.
He was coming off a eight-month stay at KK Jazine Arbanasi in Croatia where he was based between September 2018 and April 2019.
He, however, did not get a chance to play in his newest home, Australia, where he was set to play from March as the league was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic.
With an Australian spouse, Bungei is hoping to get permanent residence there and play in the top tier league.
He will be joining another Kenyan, Desmond Owili, in the Australian league.
“After the competition in Rwanda, I am looking forward to traveling the country.
I will be visiting Kapsabet where my family isand get to spend time with my cousins and my father’s siblings who are still at the farm.
I am excited to experience where my father, who passed on in 2011, grew up,” Bungei expressed.