What went wrong for Morans in qualifiers?

Kenya Morans Fidel Okoth(top) in action against hosts Egypt during the 2023 Fiba Basketball World Cup qualifiers in Egypt.[FIBA]

Kenya Morans were knocked out of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers after finishing bottom of Group D.

Morans failed to win any of their three-matches played over the weekend in Egypt where the second window of the first round of African qualifiers was held in the port city of Alexandria.

Kenya needed to win two matches to stand a chance of qualifying for the second round of the qualifiers, but hit a brick wall after another poor outing.

Morans lost to DR Congo, Senegal and hosts Egypt, who made up the tricky Group D.

Already carrying three losses from the first window played in Dakar, Senegal earlier this year in February, Morans lost six matches as they finished last with five points.

Egypt, who finished top of the group with 11 points, qualified for the second round set for August.

The Pharaohs will be joined by DR Congo (10 points) and Senegal (9 points) who finished second and third respectively in Group F made up of six teams including South Sudan, Tunisia and Cameroon.

In the African qualifiers, the best three teams from groups A, B, C and D will punch their tickets for the second round scheduled for August this year and February 2023.

The first two sides from the two groups of the second round together with the best third-placed team will qualify for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Japan and Philippines.

But the big question is, where did it all go wrong for Kenya in the World Cup qualifiers? Is it the change of guard at Morans or federation financial challenges?

Morans shot themselves on the foot with the firing of highly rated and influential Australian coach Liz Mills.

Many people questioned Kenya Basketball Federation’s (KBF) decision of January 9 when they sent Mills packing and replaced her with veteran coach Cliff Owuor.

The Australian coach was a revelation since joining the Kenyan technical bench in February last year.

Mills became the first female head coach to lead a team to the Africa championship. She is credited with helping Morans qualify for the 2021 AfroBasket for the first time in 28-years.

Despite all the glory, inspiration and glamour; the hammer came down on Mills at a time Morans were preparing for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Owuor, who was hired by Rwandan club APR in December 2020 until the 2022-2023 season, was returning after earlier leaving in 2019.

He was tasked with taking charge of Morans ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, which begun on February 25.

Kenya was among the 16 African teams that qualified for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup African qualifiers after featuring in the 2021 AfroBasket.

In the first window action in Dakar, coach Owuor’s men lost all their matches against DR Congo 56-66 on February 25, Egypt 105-51 (February 26) and Senegal 100-55 (February 27).

The poor results meant Morans had two win the second window this month but faltered once again. This time, head coach Owuor was missing from the squad owing to commitments alongside a host of players including Preston Bungei, Desmond Owili, Taylor Ongwae and Bush Wamukota who are some of the best players in the team.

Furthermore, Morans travelled late to the qualifiers owing to financial challenges and travel document hiccups that saw them dish out a 20-o walkover to DR Congo after failing to arrive in Egypt by July 1. Handled by assistant coach Sadat, Morans lost Egypt 72-39 on Saturday before going down 86-54 against nemesis Senegal on Sunday.

Confusion, lack of early preparation, financial challenges and poor management costed Kenya a chance at World Cup qualifiers and KBF must put their house in order in reference to future games.