History Makers Kenya's confidence is sky-high
NAIROBI (Kenya) - By beating eleven-time Africa champions Angola 74-73 in their Group B thriller played at the Palaise Des Sports complex in Yaounde, Kenya made a statement. And it was loud and clear.
The Morans' sentiment was expressed by the team's captain Griffin Ligare.
He said it was not by luck that Kenya stunned Angola in one of the Qualifiers shocking results, they planned it for days and executed it to perfection.
"WE WILL NO BE GOING TO KIGALI TO ADD THE NUMBERS UP, WE WANT TO GET A GOOD POSITION AND MOVE UP THE RANKINGS. I KNOW WE WILL BE GOOD ENOUGH TO ACHIEVE THE FEAT."
Asked why after that result against the Angolans, Kenya were put to the sword as they were humiliated 71-44 by bottom Mozambique in their only win coming on the last day of the competition, he replied: "After our loss to Senegal a day earlier, our game plan was to put all our focus on Angola since you can never know what's coming against Mozambique in the last game.
"We gave it our all especially in the last quarter. We were happy that effort bite fruits."
Senegal won Group B with 11 points (5-1), Angola finished second with 10 (4-2), Kenya came in third on 8 points (2-4) and Mozambique finished with six points (1-4).
Griffin Ligare averaged 4.5 points and 1.3 assists in 16 minutes per game
The 35-year-old guard conceded that the task ahead is enormous but after that historic feat against one of the continental powerhouses, the team just needs to prepare adequately for the job ahead.
In their previous meetings in AfroBasket, Angola humbled Kenya 75-64 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire in 1995 and thrashed them 110-40 at their backyard in Luanda four years later.
"The team confidence is sky-high. We believe that if we prepare well, and put everything else into perspective, we will be fine," said Ligare upon his arrival home.
"That result was the much-needed tonic. We must now move a notch higher, call our diaspora based players home for early preparations otherwise that victory will not mean much."
He noted that Africa top teams have many international players to call upon during big tournaments and besides, they always prepare well as they approach the championships.
"We will borrow a leaf from the way they do their preparations. We will be fine. I can assure you we will play anyone and will not be rattled."
Morans floor general, who is very much the heart and soul of the team, revealed that Morans are capable of dancing with the best in the continent and that the time to do it is now.
With the clock ticking towards that date, the playmaker believes the efforts played by the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) and the The government will be vital.
He mentioned that the arrival of the much-traveled coach Liz Mills and the inclusion of three key professional players from Europe did the trick for Kenya.
On Mills, who penned her name in the history books by becoming the first female coach at the helm of a men's team to qualify for the AfroBasket championship, Ligare said: "She is a great addition. She brought a lot to the technical bench. We need as many minds as we could get to improve our technical bench."
Liz Mills led Kenya in the last three games of the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers as the Morans finished 2-4 in Group B
He hailed the players efforts during their training a the week before they departed for the show saying the intensity they put up was intense as everyone stayed focused.
"We will not be going to Kigali merely to add the numbers up, we want to get a good position and move up the rankings. I know we will be good enough to achieve the feat," he said.
In Yaounde, Ligare said, that crucial match swung Kenya's was because three key players who missed the tournament in Kigali were available to play this time around.
Center Tom Wamukota was reportedly held up in DR Congo when the games started, Preston Bungei was not cleared by FIBA and documentation held up Joel Awich in France.
"The trio's presence in the crucial Qualifiers in Cameroon was important to us. They all played a major role in that victory," said Ligare.
"If we have constant communications with all our professional layers and home early hard enough, we will build a team chemistry and perform better," he observed.
Kenya's diaspora players include Wamukota, Ariel Okal, Desmond Owili, Bungei, Awich, Ronnie Gombe, and Tyler Ongwae.
Ongwae whose buzzer-beater drained Angolans and set a return to AfroBasket after a 28-year hiatus was one of the top performers from the Qualifiers. He chalked up 16 points in that tie.
Sixteen teams from the four groups as well as the host Rwanda will parade for the bonanza slated to tip-off August 24-September 5 festival.
It will be the fourth outing for Kenya in the continent's premier competition. It all started in Abidjan in 1985. Moved to Luanda in 1989 and Nairobi in 1993.
The time is now for Kenya to see if they can dance with the best in Africa. The place to realize that dream will be the Kigali Arena in Rwandese capital.