Voice of Sport

Basketball qualifying in Cairo: Kenya men standards too low as Africa game in phenomenal rise

Kenya men struggle in Cairo in quest for a place among Africa’s top basketball nations in a sport with massive growth with a rising export of talent to American NBA and universities


The real state and feel of the African game: The splendid setting of a fixture during the AfroBasket 2015 at the Salle Omnisport de Rades, Tunisia. This year’s men’s championships will be in Brazzaville, Congo

AfroBasket 2017, (Qualifiers):

Zone 5 (Cairo, Egypt):

MEN:

Group ‘A’:

March 12: Egypt 87-76 South Sudan

March 13: Rwanda 76-60 Kenya

March 14: South Sudan v Kenya

-Egypt v Rwanda

March 15: South Sudan v Rwanda

-Kenya v Egypt

Group ‘B’:

March 13: Uganda 94-72 Somalia

March 14: Somalia v Burundi

March 15: Burundi v Uganda

AfroBasket 2017: Brazzaville, Congo August 19-30

  • Qualified teams: Congo Brazzaville (hosts), Nigeria (champions)

WOMEN:

March 12: Egypt 85-56 Uganda

March 13: Uganda 41-70 Kenya

March 14: Kenya v Egypt

AfroBasket 2017: Mali, September 15-24

  • Qualified teams: Mali  (hosts);  2015 semi-finalists – Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Angola

KENYA men looked almost certainly to be eliminated while her women went on the track for the AfroBasket 2017 championships. In the ongoing Zone 5 qualifiers in Cairo, Egypt, Kenya men opened with a severe 76-60 Group ‘A’ defeat by Rwanda to dim their hopes while Kenya women shone with a decisive 70-41 beating of Zone champions Uganda.

Kenya teams only arrived in Cairo in the last minute after Kenya Government provided air tickets. But the state of the game in the country apparently does not only suffer from lack of resources. From a country that was one on the top in the men’s game in 1980s — their national team then only threatened by Egypt and its top men’s club team, Barclays Eagles, ranked almost at the top — a lot has gone downhill.

Kenya men in Cairo are certainly far behind in skill and ability. Their game on Tuesday against war-torn South Sudan will be intriguing. South Sudan are taking part for the first time. Under American tutelage the men, physically alone, are an amazing fundamental of professional basketball; tall, strong and passionate. No wonder they could take and give against the seasoned Egypt and register a decent score in their 76-87 loss. Kenya must be warned that they do not only have Egypt and Rwanda to contend with, but also South Sudan, to prove their standards are anywhere near top in Zone 5, leave alone in Africa.

Zone 5 best team Egypts lining up fot the AfroBasket 2015 tournament in Tunisia

The race for places at the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 in Congo-Brazzaville (men) and Mali (women) is officially underway, all zones staging their qualifiers in the next few days with Zone 5 taking the lead.

If the Kenyan standards are low, it is perhaps because the country has failed to keep up with the fast growing passion of the game in Africa, now clearly one of the most popular sports and a huge exporter of talent to the biggest stage of the game in the world – USA’s NBA [National Basketball Association] league.

Young men such as in the new South Sudan team are just the material the NBA would be seeking to add on the trail set by African players in the NBA including:

  • Manute Bol, Luol Deng – (South Sudan)
  • Hakeem Olajuwon, Andre Iguodala, Festus Ezeli, Emeka Okafor, Ekpe Udoh, Solomon Alabi – (Nigeria),
  • Dikembe Mutombo, Bismark Biyombo, Christian Eyenga, D J Mbenga – (Congo Kinshasa)
  • Serge Ibaka – (Congo Brazzaville)
  • Steve Nash – (South Africa)
  • Hasheem Thabeet – (Tanzania)
  • DeSagana Diop, Pape Sow, Mouhamed Sene , Boniface N’Dong, Cheik Samb – (Senegal)

 

Olaseni Lawal of Africa champions Nigeria takes on Mozambique during the AfroBasket 2015 men’s Final in Rhades, Tunisia

A total of 27 national men’s teams from all corners of Africa are either preparing or currently competing to be among the 16 teams competing in FIBA Africa’s biggest basketball event from August 19-30.

By virtue of winning the FIBA AfroBasket 2015 and as hosts of the tournament, Nigeria and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) respectively, are the only qualified teams so far.

However, by the end of this month, 12 national teams will have qualified, while the remaining two places will be attributed via a wild card allocation process.live streaming film The Space Between Us online

The men’s AfroBasket 2017 especially has a spectacular setting, Brazzaville, Congo on the very courts where the 2015 African Games were held. Fabulous new facilities recently put up in the city and where, despite their ample size, there was no room left for local enthusiasts and supporters who had crossed the borders to cheer their teams.

Cameroon women at the AfroBasket 2015 tournament which their country hosted

The closing games at the 2015, African Games were:

(At Gymnase Makélékélé, Brazzaville):

MEN: 

Final: Angola 83-73 Egypt

Bronze medal: Mali 55-57 Nigeria

Fifth place: Congo Brazzaville 69-79 Mozambique

Seventh place: Gabon 51-70 Cote d’Ivoire

WOMEN:

Final: Nigeria 57-73 Mali

Bronze medal: Angola 53-42 Senegal

Fifth place: Cameroon 70-69 Mozambique

Seventh place: Gabon 44-56 Cote d’Ivoire

Kenya women are holding their court at the Zone 5 championships and may probably have what it takes to qualify for the finals in Mali but there they will certainly be in  for a lesson against the remarkable teams (many full of university students in the United States) such as: Mali, Nigeria, Angola, Senegal, Cameroon, Mozambique, Gabon and Cote d’Ivoire.

It was quite an improved performance by the Kenyan girls who thrashed a jaded Zone defending champions Uganda 70-41 at the Cairo Olympic Centre. Kenya lost 61-64 at the last edition of the same championship.

Kenya’s bench at an international women’s game in Nairobi

 

Reliable for Kenya; guard Natalie Akinyi (left) and captain Hilda Indasi Luvandwa

 

Kenya led 16-13 in the first quarter but Uganda took the next leading 21-17 for 34- 33 half time lead. After the break, Kenya outscored with  16-3 and 21-4 to secure the deserved victory and the crucial three points.

Betty Kananu of Kenya Ports Authority, was Kenya’s top scorer sinking 14 points while Purity  Odhiambo and Velma Achieng’ each scored 12. Uganda’s highest were Ritah Imanishimwe (10) and Flavia Oketch (6).

Kenya will play Egypt in their second match on Tuesday with Uganda playing Somalia.

Uganda women, this time beaten by Kenya in AfroBasket 2017 qualifier in Cairo

The 2015 African Games women’s champions Mali here after a match in the AfroBasket 2015 tournament in Cameroon

The growth of the AfroBasket has also become phenomenal. The African championships are now frantic, a commercial success in huge gymnasiums packed with spectators and with a passionate television audience. In the 2015 men’s competition in Rhades, Morocco, Nigeria upset Angola 74-65 in the final but it was the Morocco v bitter rivals Tunisia opening match of the round of 16 knock-out stage [won 69-68,  in over time by Morocco] that brought the dome down. (See video:  http://bit.ly/2mIvb5I   Tunisia v Morocco, often described as one of – if not – the most entertaining game of FIBA AfroBasket 2015) 

AfroBasket 2017 Men qualifiers (notes):

FIBA Africa Zone 1:

Following the withdrawal of Libya, it leaves Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as the teams competing for the two places on offer for Zone 1 national teams for Congo-Brazzaville.

This tournament will be played over two legs. The first leg will take place in Algeria (March 16-18) with the second leg to follow from March 24-26. The teams that finish first and second will qualify for the Final Round.

FIBA Africa Zone 2:

There are two places available for the Final Round for Zone 2 and Cape Verde, Guinea, Mali and Senegal will do battle to grab these spots for Brazzaville.

This regional qualifier will be played over two legs. The first leg will take place in the Malian capital of Bamako (March 17-19) with the second leg to follow from March 24–26 in Dakar, Senegal.

Although Cape Verde had originally withdrawn, the islanders have been admitted back. After suffering a double defeat to Mali during the Qualifiers two years ago, Senegal are making sure to use some of their key players to avoid further disappointment.

FIBA Africa Zone 3:

Niger last participated in FIBA Africa’s flagship tournament in 1968 and although they have tried to qualify a number of times they have fallen short.

Along with Togo, Niger decided to pull out of the regional qualifier, leaving Benin, Burkina Faso and Core d’Ivoire to compete for the only ticket on offer for Brazzaville.

The qualifier will be played over two legs. The first leg will take place in Benin (March 16-18) with the second leg to follow from March 24–26 in Cote d’Ivoire.

FIBA Africa Zone 4:

The Central African Republic [CAF] will host FIBA Africa Zone 4 Group ‘D’ in a two-game series against the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Following the withdrawal of Equatorial Guinea, both CAF and RD Congo will compete for the only ticket for Brazzaville. The regional qualifier will run from March 18-24.

In FIBA Africa Zone 4 Group ‘E’, Chad, Gabon, and hosts Cameroon will do battle for the only place on offer for the Final Round. The qualifier will run from March 24-29.

FIBA Africa Zone 5:

Over the weekend, seven national teams from Zone 5 – Egypt, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya – began a race to secure the two tickets for Congo-Brazzaville showpiece.

In the opening game of the round-robin format tournament, hosts Egypt beat South Sudan 87-76 on Sunday. The qualifier will run through March 18 without Somalia, who withdrew.

FIBA Africa Zone 6 and 7:

The Zambian capital of Lusaka will be host of Zone 6 Group G. Following the withdrawal of Seychelles, Angola, South Africa and hosts Zambia will be competing for the only ticket on offer for Congo-Brazzaville. The tournament will run from March 25-30.

Meanwhile, FIBA Africa Zone 6 Group ‘H’ teams will convene in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare from 19-25 March.

Angola, the premier team of Africa until they were upstaged by Nigeria at the final of AfroBasket 2015 in Rhades, Tunisia

Following the withdrawal of Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique and hosts Zimbabwe will fight for the top place, which ensures a passport to Congo-Brazzaville.

However, the teams that finish second in Zone 6 groups ‘G’ and ‘H’ will have a second chance to advance to the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Final Round by facing each other.

Emerging South Sudan of Zone 5:

Born in 2011, South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, full of millions of war-time refugees who fought for freedom as an independent nation. But they have now internally turned on each other.

However, for the first time ever, young South Sudanese men can bring pride and unity to their fledgling country through the game of basketball.

South Sudan in Cairo for their first ever top flight international tournament, taking on Egypt in the AfroBasket 2017 Zone 5 qualifier

South Sudan in a huddle during their Zone 5 AfroBasket qualifying match with Egypt in Cairo

 

They are big boys this bunch from South Sudan bracing for competition in the international arena

The inaugural South Sudan National Basketball Team had been invited to participate in FIBA AfroBasket 2017, making their debut on the world’s stage.

But there was the catch… they could not do without outside help. After making a decision to travel to Cairo for the AfroBasket 2017 qualifiers, they had just two short week to raise the team needs of $75,000 [Sh7.5 million] to be able to play in their  first ever tournament.  Every cent donated went directly to the costs of equipping young South Sudanese men to represent their country in the first step toward their ultimate goal of the Olympics.

American basketball coach, Jerry Steele (former head coach of the Palestinian National Team) accepted the challenge and honour of leading this team of incredible men through uncharted territory.  Steele does not receive any payment and every dollar contributed is tax deductible through 501c3 Make A Difference, (MAD) Ministries. The initiative was appealing to everyone in the world: “Will you consider helping team South Sudan ‘Build a Game to Build a Nation’”?

-Additional reporting by Julio Chitunda, fiba.com