NAIROBI (Premier League) – Former national champions Ulinzi Warriors will make their return in the Kenyan Basketball league by playing the 2010 season in Division One, the Kenyan Basketball Federation (KBF) announced.
KBF vice chairman Henry Shihemi said it was decided at a meeting held last week that the Warriors – the only team to win the Premier League five times in a row (2001-2005) – should be re-instated.
“We have decided to give them a chance to participate in the league once again after they requested it. But they will have to start from Division One and not at the provincial level,” he said.
Ulinzi had notified KBF of their intention to return to the fold after a three-year hiatus and requested to be reinstated back to the Premier League where they signed off five years ago.
The team have recalled their star players who have featured for other teams in the league since then. They are expected to dominate the league and make it back to the top flight within one year.
One of the team's top performers who should be the key to their revival again is guard Victors Odendo who helped KCB Lions to win their third title in a row last year.
Ulinzi’s other major players are forward John Apollo, who guided Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to a second place finish in the last campaign as well as Moses Shida, whose defense was instrumental in International Christian Center (ICC) claiming third place in the 2009 standings.
Reigning champions KCB Lions played poorly but still crushed newly-promoted Blazers 71-41 as the 2010 season got underway at the Nyayo National Stadium gymnasium over the weekend.
The Lions only showed their claws in the final frame after proving to be turnover prone over the course of the first three periods. They led 16-10 at the end of the first quarter and 34-25 at the break and gradually pulled away. They outscored their opponents 19-3 in the last 10 minutes.
Tobias Onyango and Luka Lukongo had 18 points each while the losers – whose only points in the last quarter came courtesy of John Gacheru’s three-pointer – got a team-high 15 from Joel Atebe.
Meanwhile, Co-operative Bank of Kenya showed five new faces including the much-travelled Peter Kiganya as they squeezed a narrow 68-63 win over International Christian Center (ICC).
The Bankers led 38-26 at half time before allowing ICC to take over the proceedings briefly in the third when they edged in front 49-48. They stretched their advantage to as many as seven points, but Co-op outscored them 18-10 in the last quarter to triumph.
Nelson Njau scoring 13 points, Kiganya and Mike Makiadi shot 10. ICC had 19 from Griffin Ligare and 13 from Phil Dinga.
Elsewhere, Posta thumped Strathmore University 84-58 in another top tie. The Mailmen, who have no major signing this year, sounded a stern warning to the Students from the outset by jumping out to a 20-7 first quarter lead. Strathmore were left to play catch-up the rest of the way and the task proved too big an ask.
Ben Oluoch celebrated his birthday with 19 points and Tony Abondo added 16.
In other results, University of Nairobi cruised past Lomboritz behind Sammy Kiria’s 21 points and he also made his mark at the other end of the court, anchoring the defense and swatting shots at will.
In the women’s only game, Faith Owich had 18 points in leading Strathmore University to an emphatic 51-36 win over Mennonites.
In the lower divisions, Mennonites thrashed Nakuru Club 84-49 while World Hope fell 87-65 to Parklands Baptist and Kenya Polytechnic University rallied back from an early deficit to edge out Friends of Basketball (FOB) 48-44.