Basketball: From Kenya to the NBA

I’ve always loved basketball. I played it in Kenya (and I can date myself here) back when teams like St. Pats up in Iten were in decline and a small school called Nyeri Baptist along with Rosslyn Academy were our only competition. I’ve been back to Kenya since and have seen a great change in the game there. There are more and more good players – schools like Strathmore and Saints are putting together teams that can really play. I have hesitations to voice over the quality of coaching or refereeing, but with time those will get better too.

Kenya BasketballOne of the things I really loved about living in Nairobi was the pickup tournaments that came up every once in a while. I was fortunate to live across from Nyayo Stadium, and to have Kenyan friends that would let me know about the upcoming events. At those tournaments I saw some great play. I remember watching one guy drain 13 3-pointers in a single game – which is amazing because how few Kenyans are actually good outside shots, especially in those days?!

Inside post-play was usually, and still is, the name of the game in Kenyan club basketball. A couple years back I had the chance to play with the Barclay’s Bank squad. It’s not until you run with guys like them or Ulinzi that you realize how big of panzies the guys in the US are when it comes to calling fouls. Yani, those guys didn’t call it unless there was blood dripping to the floor!

I’ve sometimes wondered why there isn’t more cultivation of the natural talent – I mean come on, everyone must admit that those Luo’s are big and can jump out of the building! I really believe that with better youth coaching and better refs, that the level will improve enough for Kenyans to be good enough to make it to the NBA. I don’t see why not – there is the talent, the base skill and the desire – we just need the last few components, which are sometimes the hardest to get because of how corrupt some governing bodies can get.

Why this talk of basketball? The NBA has started up once again, which means that I can now turn the television back on. Gone are the horrible days of Summer with only baseball to watch (the world’s most boring sport).

25 thoughts on “Basketball: From Kenya to the NBA

  1. Thainamu

    I disagree about the baseball, but I’m watching the Mavericks now too. One time I heard a woman from South America explaining that the personality of America was more like baseball while the personality of her country was more like soccer.

  2. bankelele

    It’s a shame that DSTV does not show NBA or college basketball games. There are only occasional games on the ESPN channel, but they are shown at 3 a.m. with no repeats.

  3. JohnL

    Heh heh- I like the old school pic of the Barclays Eagles (which don’t exist any longer). I count my two years playing in the Premier League as one of my top memories from Kenya. And the blood DID flow every now and then! (Enjoy your blog, even though your comment on baseball is horribly wrong… :))

  4. HASH

    NyeriBap Alumni- Ahh, you guys were a tough team. I wish we could have met you on our court! :) Also, is Mashada your website? If so, you’ve done an incredible job of building a community there.

    Thainamu/JohnL – You have to remember that I grew up without a batting sport, meaning no baseball or cricket. Please forgive my ignorance and understanding of your fine game. :)

    John, I was actually thinking of you yesterday when I was writing about Barclays. I didn’t realize they weren’t around any more – what happened?

  5. JohnL

    Sprite is the sponser now- they are called the “Sprite Stormers,” whatever THAT’S supposed to mean. The guy in white in your pic looks like Medan, who not only is getting beaten baseline in the play, but jumped ship to KPA. HASH, your blog is becoming required reading for me- even though I don’t understand all the technology stuff. Have a good one!

  6. Mentalacrobatics

    The talent in Kenyan high school basketball is astonishing. I feel that a lack of information has a role to play here as well. People just do not know what to do with the talent, where it can take them. 13 three pointers in a game? Whoa. I watched an amazing dunking contest between some high school guys 7 / 8 years ago. I still shake my head in disbelief at some the dunks that were thrown down that night.

  7. JohnL

    I agree, Mental- with better coaching and equipment, HASH may be right- we could have a Kenyan in the NBA.

  8. Adrian

    dito on baseball being boring.
    dito on being happy the nba is back (go nets!!)
    unfortunately in switzerland we have no games or programmes televised. pay tv channels from germany show games starting from 3 a.m.

    i am a tall maasai. so you can imagine the number of times i’m asked whether i play bball. unfortunately i can’t jump to save my life…

  9. Joe

    Before the NBA, the Kenyans would need to get exposure at the college level. My suggestion would be to create a mega web site for Kenyan HS basketball. Display stats, rosters with height / weight, and highlight film clips (plus contact information for the players). Second, start sending DVD highlights of the best players to college coaches. It’ll take one Kenyan to make it big in the NCAA then the coaches will start to take note the Kenyans the way they currently do with Nigerians. The NCAA is short on power forwards and centers. Athletic, stout post players at 6’7″ or taller are hard to find.

  10. HASH

    Joe,

    I think that’s a good start. Why just do DVD’s though? In this day and age each player should have a streaming (or downloadable) video in their online profile.

    I know there are some Kenyans who play ball in the States. Most are at D2 schools though so they don’t make a big enough footprint to be noticed. Greater exposure, and as I keep stressing – better coaching, are needed to make the Kenyan player better AND more visible.

    HASH

  11. JohnL

    Does anyone know of other Kenyans playing ball in the states? It would be pretty cool to follow them…. and Doreen Mwala was to go stateside, but it appears like she’s still in Kenya. Anyone know?

  12. HASH

    Bankele, great find. We should create a list of them, like JohnL suggests. I might have to create a special page on this site to list them. Would that interest everyone?

  13. JohnL

    Would certainly interest me! How about a mzungu who grew up in Kenya? Kyle Schrage just signed a letter of intent to play at Missouri Southern, a D-II school. (Full ride!)

  14. Joe

    Hash said:
    >>I think that’s a good start. Why just do DVD’s though? In this day and age each player should have a streaming (or downloadable) video in their online profile.

  15. william ruthi

    hey.
    i live out here in nairobi..great b.ball enthusiast.i write sports.does anyone know of a kenyan playing ball in the states?i interviewd steven othoro,a former player for the Baylor Bears,and formerly a player with the Texas rimrockers of the USBL.get back

  16. Tomb

    I don’t see why any Kenyan can’t be in the NBA too, just need the opportunity and the proper exposure. My favourite NBA player is Mutombo, he is a great player and an amazing person. :)

  17. JPcrutch

    I love this blg and i love basketball. Former barclays player and KCITI.There is a lot of talent in kenya , but the only thing we lack is exposure and times when we get it , its too late . age really matters in the NBA . Peter kiganya is an example . He even went for an NBA camp tryouts but because of his age , they did not give him a chance . He also played for ACU and now he plays pro in South america. His website is kiganya.com , kudos to him.

  18. allan warega aka shox

    i love this game so much.i live in nairobi and actually the nba should give kenya a serious try coz we have real talent here.my best team is detroit pistons and my best playa on court is Tmac.at the moment we are the street champs in kenya en our team is called “take sum” which means you get a piece of what we gat.

  19. The Pirate

    If anybody has anuy memories of the famous tournament called StrathCup it would be great to share some.

  20. juma kent

    Thanx alot keepup te good work.Need to do more about Kenya players abroad cheers.Am Int Basketball Referee and Coach for High school,Snr Women team and the Deaf.

  21. JP

    Kenyans have had excepitional basketball talent for so long….and its so frustrating that the various governing bodies have not harnessed it, developed it and exposed it through the right channels.
    Changes need to be made right from the grass root level …, schools. Coaches need to be educated on 1) better methods of developing the talent they come across 2) Developing relationships with colleges in the US and across the world, whereby the provide insight on how to put the kids on track to getting to the various colleges on athletic and/or academic scholarships. 3) ….then developing a website where official player statistics, profiles and footage can be accessed. 4) Basketball camps for various age groups/officials/ coaches, during periods when the kids are not in school is also an important way to get large numbers educated on various aspects of the game…this is where all the NBA and ex NBA players, who are always willing to impart their knowledge through various organizations like NBA’s basketball Without Borders , can be contacted for assistance.

    Back in the day ….with the right exposure, I have no doubt that the following would have made it big in NCAA Div I College teams…and then from there…who knows. I know cause I played against them…

    1) Kingsley Makokha “Kingza”
    2)Michael Lopokoiyit “Lopo”
    3)Hulute Yoga ” Tutu”
    4)Edmund Nabutete “Nabs”
    5)Sidney Wafula “Sid”
    6) Paddo
    7)Peter Kiganya…who plays pro ball in S. America.
    8) Christian Awori
    9) Rehabura Munyagi
    10) Steven Othoro …who did play Div 1 NCAA bball and semi-pro bball
    11)…….. the list goes on and on….these are just the ones I could think of right now….just a few from my era and a little before…… feel free to add to the list.

    A few highschool bball teams I have to mention are:

    The Alliance High School 1997 -Cinderella Story
    Serani 1997
    St. Austins 1998-1999/2000 -Undefeated
    The “Original” Team Sprite – Undefeated

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