Players drawn from newly crowned women’s league champions Equity Bank Hawks and Kenya Ports Authority form the bulk of the provisional squad of 22 players named by Kenya Basketball Federation to commence training for the FIBA Afro Basket Zone Five qualifiers set for March 12-18 in Cairo, Egypt.
The team has not reached the continental stage since 2013 and saw their chances dashed by fierce rivals and neighbours Uganda in the 2015 edition.
The squad named by a select committee of coaches headed by Ronnie Owino has Equity Bank represented by veteran Samba Mjomba, reigning league most valuable player Mercy Wanyama and league top scorer Hilda Indasi.
Wanyama, the younger sister to renowned Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Mugubi, was instrumental in her team’s success and is set to bolster the team on both ends of the court.
Former national team captain and center Silalei Shani is back to the fold after a stellar season with Equity Bank.
KPA has dynamic quartet of Natalie Akinyi, Betty Kananu, Yvonne Akinyi and 2015 Zone Five Club Championship MVP Celine Okumu in the squad.
United States International University-Africa’s Georgia Adhiambo, a present figure in the national team from the under-18 level, is optimistic of a good run this time around after falling short in 2015.
“The mood is positive among the players as we want to start strongly from training and give it our best. We have talented group of players that I believe will deliver in Egypt after losing to Uganda two years ago,” Adhiambo told SNA on Friday.
Maina gets the nod
After leading Equity Bank to the first title, head coach David Maina has been given the nod by KBF to lead the national side that began training at Nyayo Gymnasium on Friday.
“We have to be focused from the go because it is not going to be easy. The players have to be ready to compete with the very best as we chase qualification. The recent conclusion of the league is a plus for us because the players that took part are still fresh,” Maina said.
Surprise exclusion from the squad has been USIU-A’s Melisa Otieno who has been a consistent performer for her team in league and continental assignments. Linet Juma from Riley College (USA) has also been omitted from the squad.
The highly rated Shimba Hills alumnus is a star player in the Division One League, averaging 12 rebounds per game. The 21 year old has featured previously for Kenya at the under-18 level.
Twenty seven players have been called up for the provisional men’s national team as they will play their first competitive fixture in nearly two years.
The last time they played at an international tournament was in March 2015. They took part in an invitational tournament in South Africa where they finished fourth in the four-team competition.
The side has been boosted by the sensational return of Tylor Okari who plays professionally for Swedish Premier League side Solna Vikings.
The 25 year old Okari has been missing from the national scene for the past four years since making his debut in 2011 during an All-Africa Games qualifier match against Rwanda. The 6 ft 7'' power forward has also previously played for ULM Warhawks (USA) in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
KPA veteran Evans Letting, who has featured regularly for the national side, has been left out. Both sets of squads will be periodically trimmed to 12 each before the final squad is named.
Women: Natalie Akinyi, Susan Manya, Samba Mjomba, Rose Ouma, Catherine Oloo, Hilda Indasi, Grace Wanjiku, Betty Kananu, Celine Okumu, Lucy Machuma, Georgia Odhiambo, Belinda Okoth, Mercy Wanyama, Berine Akoth, Rita Anyango, Beryl Akoth, Purity Odhiambo, Vilma Owino, Silalei Shani, Felmas Adhiambo, Yvonne Akinyi, Mollete Achieng
Head coach: David Maina; Assistants: Philip Onyango, Anthony Ojukwu; Team Manager: Joseph Amoko.
Men: Griffins Ligare, Victor Bosire, Joseph Khaemba, Victor Ochieng, Erick Mutoro, Joseph Ongoro, Tylor Okari, Tobias Onyango, Brian Namake, Martin Kitongo, James Mwangi, Frank Manyala, Felix Odhiambo, Valentine Otula, Frank Omondi, Frank Ogolla, Mike Makiadi, Paul Owuor, Paul Ekiru, Nixon Ogal, Lawrence Wandera, George Odhiambo, Phillip Ameny, Kevin Kigotho, Kevin Chogo, William Ochieng, Desmond Owili.
Head coach: Sammy Kiki; Assistant Coach: Carey Odhiambo.