Basketball sides call for aid ahead of Africa Zone 5 qualifiers

Joseph Khaemba of Co-operative Bank reacts during their Kenya Basketball Federation League playoffs match against ...
Joseph Khaemba of Co-operative Bank reacts during their Kenya Basketball Federation League playoffs match against Thunder at the Nyayo national stadium on December o4, 2016. Cooperative Bank won 82-53. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

The National Men’s and women’s basketball teams called for more support ahead of the March Africa Zone 5 qualifiers in Cairo.

Speaking during the Smatts Olumbo Memorial Basketball Tournament men’s team captain Joseph Khaemba noted that the teams were enthusiastic about beating arch-rivals Egypt and Uganda, adding that tournaments such as the weekend competition enabled them sharpen their skills.

“The players are passionate about winning the Zone 5 qualifiers, but we need moral and financial support to get there.

“Playing in the Smatts Memorial not only paid homage to the most revered coach in the continent, but also gave our players the chance to fine tune our skills on the court,” said Joseph.

His sentiments were echoed by Coach Mohamed Abdirahman, a celebrated coach in Qatar who felt that the Kenyan team was made up of talented players who needed support when representing the country.

“Kenya which was once a force in African basketball, with coach Smatts leading the national team. In his memory and in support of the talented players, I urge the country to rally behind them as they prepare for Zone 5 qualifiers next month,” Coach Mohamed added.

The two- day tournament which honours the memory of legendary Eagle Wings coach Thomas ‘Smatts’ Olumbo saw KPA dunk SWOT 56-48 in a highly charged women’s game.

Griffin Ligare shot the last basket that gave Kenya team a narrow three-point lead against Ulinzi Alpha, ending the game at 49-46.

In the High Schools category, FAM Foundation from Kayole beat Mathare Slum Dunk 42- 17.

Ligare of Thunder and Salma Akinyi of Uganda were named most valuable players in the man’s and women’s categories respectively.

Event organizer Nellie Odera noted an increase in the interest in the tournament, and called for the national team to be taken as seriously as other national teams.

“The national team players are determined to win at the qualifiers. In the same way that athletics and other fields are given the desired attention, so should basketball, because of the immense pool if talent representing the country,” noted Nellie.

Until his demise in 2014, Smatts was head coach of Eagle Wings, scooping them bronze in the FIBA Africa Women Club Championships held in Morocco in 2013.

His passion for the youth saw Laiser Hill Academy win Kenya Schools boys and East Africa boys Basketball Championships twice.

His 20- year coaching career also budded players in corporate teams such as Telcom Kenya, Cooperative Bank (Men), Barclays Eagles and Posts and Telecommunications KPTC (men).

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