Newly crowned Kenya League champions Equity's head coach David Maina has been handed the top job to lead the women’s national team at the upcoming FIBA Women's AfroBasket Zone 5 Qualifiers. The regional qualifier will take place in Cairo, Egypt, from 12-18 March.
Fresh from bagging a debut league title, Maina is keen on replicating this success with the national side that is seeking a ticket to the FIBA Women's AfroBasket set for Mali (15-24 September).
In the meantime, Maina named a 18-member preliminary roster with a combination of experience and upcoming players, a decision he has backed as laying the foundation for the future as Kenya seeks to regain its mantle at the top.
Kenya 18-player preliminary roster for FIBA AfroBasket Women Zone 5 Qualifiers
Hilda Indasi Luvandwa
Elizabeth Samba Mjomba
Natalie Akinyi Mwangale
“We missed out on the last edition and now everybody wants to make it to FIBA Women's AfroBasket," Maina said.
"We are going to give it our best, motivate each of us because we have a name to keep. We have to get it right. We have to play for Kenya,” said Maina who coached the Kenya U-19 in 2008 winning the Zone 5 title in Kampala.
“We have to hit the road running. We have no time for excuses. The players have no time for laxity. We are going all out. We have just concluded our play-off, so majority of the players have no problem with the level of fitness, if anything it is an advantage for us that the league ended recently.”
Newly crowned Most Valuable Player Mercy Wanyama, sister to football star and English Premier League midfielder Victor Wanyama who features for Tottenham Hotspurs, is keen on making her contribution to the national team success.
“Mercy’s attitude is very contagious. She wants to win. At Equity, she told us that she was only joining because she wanted to win and in the last game, she played like it was the last game of her career. She follows instructions, does not miss training and listens.”
Her presence in the paint along with renowned and in-form shooting guard Hilda Indasi Luvandwa, Zone 5 Club Championship MVP Celine Okumu, Elizabeth Samba Mjomba, Natalie Akinyi and Georgia Odhiambo represents a rich back court to support her as Kenya rallies for continental success.
Maina’s side will however have to fend off challenge from their neighbours and greatest arch-rivals Uganda who ousted them in 2015 to win the FIBA Africa Zone 5 qualifier in Kampala and hope to make a return to FIBA Women's AfroBasket for the first time since 2013.
However, Maina is unfazed by their rise to the top and said: "The good thing we are all playing away from home. Our level of talent is higher than Uganda but because of poor preparations, lack of structure, Uganda looks better than us but we shall do our best and not present excuses.”
Maina is expected to commence training on Friday at Nyayo National Stadium in the heart of the busy Nairobi.
According to Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) Competitions Secretary Joseph Amoko, a tournament is being organized on the weekend for the ladies to play friendly matches before heading to Cairo. #FIBA