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CRYING FOR HELP: National team players call for support ahead of Egyptian trip

BASKETBALL By ERICK OCHIENG' | February 28th 2017
Equity Bank's Fred Lugasi chase Joseph Khaemba of Coop Bank during KBF Premier league at Nyayo National Gymnasium, Nairobi, on sunday, Sept 4, 2016. [PHOTO: JONAH ONYANGO/STANDARD]

National men and women basketball captains are confident Kenya will bag slots to represent the FIBA Africa Zone V at the continental championship in Brazzavile, Congo, in August.

Joseph Khaemba (men's captain) and Hilda Indasi (women's captain) know too well they have a difficult task ahead, but remain confident of conjuring up a good show.

The Kenyan teams have stepped up their training ahead of the tournament, which will also act as a qualifier for the continental championship to be held in Cairo between March 12-18.

"We are confident of beating hosts Egypt and Uganda. All we need is support from all the quarters involved and the players to be focus and dedicated," Khaemba said.

The Co-op Bank Spartan player has also echoed sentiments of Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) President Paul Otula, who called for financial support from the Government and corporate companies.

"The players are passionate about winning the Africa Zone V qualifiers, but we need moral and financial support to comfortably attain that," said Khaemba, who was speaking on the final day of the Thomas Smatts Olumbo Memorial Basketball Tournament at KCB Ruraka grounds, at the weekend.

KPA beat Swot 56-48 to win the women's category, while Kenya's national team defeated Ulinzi Alpha 49-46 in the men's contest.

FAM Foundation from Kayole, beat Mathare Slum Dunk 42-17 to win in the schools category that attracted 10 teams from Nairobi.

At the same time, Nairobi Thunder's Griffin Ligare and Salma Akinyi, who plies her trade in Uganda, were named Most Valuable Players in the men and women's categories.

The two-day tournament in honour of the late Eagle Wings and women's national team head coach Thomas Smatts Olumbo, was sponsored by gaming platform, mCHEZA.

"It was great taking part in this tournament as it has enabled us sharpen our skills and keep fit ahead of our departure to Egypt," said Indasi, a former Eagle Wings player, now playing for league winners, Equity Hawks.

"The Thomas Smatts Memorial not only paid homage to the most revered coach in the country, but also gave us a chance to fine-tune our skills on the court," added Indasi.

Until his demise in 2014, Olumbo was head coach of Eagle Wings, where he guided them to the bronze medal in the FIBA Africa Women Club Championships in Morocco, in 2013.

He also coached Laiser Hill Academy, whom he helped win the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association and East Africa Schools Championships twice, in the boys' category.

His 20-year coaching career also impacted positively on corporate teams such as Telkom Kenya, Cooperative Bank (men), Barclays Eagles and Posts and Telecommunications, KPTC (men).

mCHEZA Head of Communications Emily Manjeru said nurturing talent was at the heart of the gaming platform.

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