24 August, 2021
05 September
4 Situma Khaemba (KEN)
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Drawn alongside Nigeria, Mali and Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya's Khaemba says "We are the underdogs"

(NAIROBI) Kenya - Morans guard Joseph Situma Khaemba said the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket draw was good and fair because there's no easy group.

The draw of Africa's flagship event was conducted last Sunday in Kigali and Morans are pooled in Group C alongside  favourites Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Mali .

- Khaemba


"All the teams including ours, are ready for the challenge and we expect to give good a give account of ourselves in the championships," Khaemba noted, adding that: "The teams in our group are well experienced but we have the underdog tag and we are capable of upsetting teams there."

Khaemba is determined to make the final team to Kigali, Rwanda for the festival after being in and out of the side in the last five tournaments.

He missed the Fiba Africa Zone Five AfroCan Qualifiers in Kampala, Uganda, but bagged a silver medal in the inaugural finals in Bamako, Mali in 2019 without playing much role on the court.

He watched the AfroBasket Pre-Qualifiers at home in Nairobi in January 2020 from the stands and even missed the first window of the 2021 Qualifiers in Kigali.

Amidst all this, it did not spell doom for Khaemba who  continued to work hard and bounced back to return to the team for the make-or-break second window in Yaounde, Cameroon in February.

Coach Liz Mills picked him in the final 12 and he justified his inclusion by logging impressive minutes in that historic 74-73 triumph over Angola that propelled Kenya to their first FIBA AfroBasket appearance in nearly three decades.

"Without God none of these would have been possible. I have seen His hand at every step of my life." He confessed adding: “Also having a strong mental attitude to persevere through whatever comes my way helped."

He observed that Kenya will surprise many teams at the AfroBasket taking into considerations that they have continuously improved in all their last tournaments. But before anything is achieved, there is a lot of hard work to be put in.

"Remember we are the underdogs." He revealed: "And thus all we have to do is go out and implement what our coaches ask of us and we shall be just fine and will be capable of surprising lots of teams and the basketball world in the tournament."

The team in his view needs to polish up on being clinical, tactical and implementation. But this will be handled once coach Mills and his technical bench kick off their preparations in June.

"We have to switch gears and turn up notches higher in terms of mental preparedness. Should we have a proper camp minus six weeks before the tournament we shall be able to dial down and make sure we are well prepared," he said.

Having the diaspora players in the side has helped a lot in elevating the level and style of play because of what they are exposed while out there. That mix also raises the level of competition.

But with the Kenya league now halted following suspension of all sporting activities due to health concerns, Khaemba says players based at home will now have to put in a lot of intensive individual work just to stay in shape.

The inability to play competitively while a continental championships is right down the corner worries Khaemba, but he remains convinced once the team assembles, they will recover the lost time.

"Of course we will lose game fitness due to the fact that our league matches have been halted for weeks due to health concerns. But on the other hand, we will recover from injuries and have time to recalibrate our systems and mental capabilities," said the Ulinzi Warriors guard.

He went on, "Because of the break, there will also be time to work on general body fitness and polish the fundamental basketball skills like dribbling.

"Now is the time to hit the gym, lift weights and continuously work on general body fitness just to get my body in perfect shape and study our opponents. I am sure we shall be back to court and the basketball touch will still be there."

As the June date for Morans assembly approaches, getting in shape remains Khaemba's grave concern now. He is convinced this time he will be showing the way at the Kigali Arena from start.