Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) team traveled to Cotonou, Benin for the 15th FIBA Africa club championships for women as heroines of the Zone Five, they returned home with their heads sagging on to their chests.
Why does this club that has ruled the Kenyan and regional basketball scene once again become such a cropper at the continental podium ? Is it the old players ? Is there need to inject young blood in the mix as many think ?
A day before the team departed for the West Africa nation, coach Anthony Ojukwu was quoted in two local dailies praising his girls impressive performance against Strathmore University in their two play off quarter final matches.
He said this was an indication of what to expect in Benin. From that result, it indeed should have been the students coach Sylvia Kamau punching the air in gesticulation because they are the ones who showed remarkable improvement in the two meets.Remember, "Swords" only made it to the play offs as the last team !
Pundits did not understamd what Ojukuw was talking about. He went on, "I Know it will not be easy because the other teams have also prepared for the championships but the experience we have at this level should be able to count this time round." he noted.
How dead wrong was he. Ojukwu has been to more than four championships with the same team, he has seen and met the continents top clubs in this same competition but he talks like a rookie coach who does not know what to expect vis a vis his personel.
As far as I am concerned, the problem with KPA is not the old players. At this level of competition, the younger players will perform even worse. The real problem is the tactical bench. This is the stark reality and what must be address. The rest is a side show.
Why should one continue talking of injection of younger players in this team as the only means of progress ? There are young players as well as old players and in fact it was the same old names, Joyce Makungu and Agnes Anyango who were scoring for the side yet there are some younger blood ?
If you look at the top teams in Africa it is the experienced players who carry their teams. Young players get minimal minutes. During the 2008 tournament in Nairobi, we had a chance to watch these teams and get my word, what I saw were very experienced players doing the job.
KPA were eighth last year and the much talked about Eagle Wings were tenth. Take Wings and add Eastern Queens players to the mix and send them to the next edition of the same event and see if they will be anywhere in the medal brackets !
What position did two time national champions KCB Lions occupy in their tour of Nigeria ? They were dead last. And what did they say upon return- that the players need to go to the gym and bulk up. Do you think Co-operative Bank of Kenya will fair better in Kigali, next month ?
Let Kenyan coaches wake up and play their roles. Let them attend as many clinics as there are and let them share notes and be willing to learn then only shall they help to lift the standard of the game in the country.
For coach Ojukwu, you can not face matches in the Africa championships the same
way you approach a national premier league game ! There is a huge difference between the two. Two months ago, I challenged the team and for those who read that article, you saw for yourself.
First Bank, the Nigerian girls that won the crown were not even supposed to be there had it not been for a wild card given to them by FIBA Secretary general Alphonse Bile. The same team won the title in 2003 in Mozambique. Unlike KPA, they did their home work well.
In Nairobi, they were third beating the same ABC of Ivory Coast 76-62 to bag the bronze. They met KPA and beat them 51-44 in the quarter finals and still they were not happy with their showing. It is no wonder they won all their seven games and are proud African champions again.
KPA got off their campaign to a fine start whipping home girls Energie 72-32 in their opener. They then fell like nine pins in their subsequent six. 51-66 to Desportivo, 84-29 to eventual winners First Bank, 40-63 to ABC, 47-54 to Apolitecnica, 43-48 top CSA and 50-65 to Deepwater.
Nothing to be proud of here especially from a team that was not playing in their first
continental show. Talk of using younger players is immaterial because they get beat time and time again by players who are older than they are !
KPA will perhaps win another ticket to the Africa championships. If they do not perhaps Wings would. But did they not beat Wings in Kampala in August during the qualifiers ? Whether Wings or Queens can do better in this tournament I do not know.