Kenya Morans face Cote d'Ivoire in AfroCan opener on Saturday

Kenya Morans captain Griffin Ligare (left) in action against Senegal during the 2023 Fiba Basketball World Cup qualifiers in Egypt.[FIBA]

Kenya Morans will be hoping to kick off the second edition of the FIBA AfroCan on the front foot today when they face off against Cote d’Ivore in their opening Group A match from 11.30am East African Time in Angola.

Kenya was part of the inaugural championship held in Bamako, Mali going all the way to the final where they lost 82-61 to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Morans will also play Gabon in the three nation group but their job has to start with Cote d'Ivoire.

At least four of the players from the 2019 squad in Bamako made the final squad with their inclusion bringing some experience to Morans. 

The side has the burden of proving that their inaugural edition exploits were no fluke. With the changes in the team, can they?

Having reached the final-four in Mali, they punched their ticket to this year's competition in Angola and thus did not have to go through the Zone 5 Qualifiers held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last month.

Returning coach Cliff Owuor,  who last handled the national team in last year’s February window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers, makes a comeback and is expected to guide the team to another successful campaign on the continental stage.

Morans go to battle with a tough task of proving their 2019 exploits were no fluke even, as they face Gabon side ranked 25th in the continent, seven places below Kenya on the FIBA rankings last updated on Feb 27 2023.

The winners of each group will advance directly to the Quarter-Finals while the teams that finish second and third after the Group Phase will play the qualification round for the Last Eight.

National league MVP Eugene Adera who was instrumental in handing KPA a third-consecutive league title is expected to launch his International career in Angola. He can marshal the floor and score and will definitely be one to watch.

With the AfroCan being a tournament reserved for African-based players, but for two, Tom 'Bush' Wamukota who made the 2019 team of the tournament alongside tournament's top scorer Tyler Ongwae who has since called time on his International career, headlines the team's star list. 

Wamukota,  who plies his trade in Rwanda,  has featured for the team on the African stage and has been a regular in the Basketball Africa League (BAL) qualifiers. 

Veteran point guard Griffin Ligare who guided the team to silver in Bamako is expected to provide guidance on the floor as is Eric Mutoro who was instrumental in the team's run in the inaugural edition. 

Skipper and 2019 league MVP Victor Bosire might have missed the inaugural edition, but his contribution in the AfroBasket run makes him a key component for Morans' success if they are to contest for the title. 

Bosire helped his side Equity Dumas to reaching their first ever playoff final in the just-concluded national league where they went on to lose 3-1 to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in the best-of-five final series. 

AfroCan is the new competition of African national teams directed by FIBA Africa.

The idea of creating this competition stems from the decision to organize the FIBA AfroBasket every four years instead of two years as before.

It was therefore up to FIBA Africa to try to fill the gap that the national teams would have to endure during the four years between the last and the next edition of this competition.

AfroCan is opened to all players evolving on the African continent. In its format, this competition will give players plying their trade on the African continent the opportunity to showcase their talents.

Morans won the FIBA Zone 5 championships trophy in Kampala, Uganda to qualify for the Inaugural AfroCan. Their victory also came with a historic 97-79 win over Egypt. 

In Mali, they bounced back from a disappointing 82-65 loss to DRC in the event's opener to beat Nigeria 81-69,  Ivory Coast 85-83, Tunisia 82-76 and Morocco 96-66 in the semis to make it to the final, losing to DRC again. 

Having created a solid squad at the AfroCan, Morans won the six-team AfroBasket pre-qualifiers held in Nairobi in January 2020 to book a place in the AfroBasket Qualifiers set for November the same year.

The team went on to qualify for their first AfroBasket (in February 2021) in close to three decades (28 years). Their last appearance in the continental competition before 2021 was in 1993 as the country hosted the showpiece, finishing fourth at the time. 

Morans finished third in a Group C that had Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Mali, picking one win in the three matches. They lost 60-58 to South Sudan in the pre-quarters to exit the competition, ranking 9th at the conclusion of the extravaganza. 

A woeful campaign for a place in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup ended with a humiliating exit for the team that was plagued with numerous mismanagement issues that saw only nine players play in the July 2022 window of qualification.[Additional reporting y FIBA]

 Morans Squad: Victor Bosire (captain), Eric Mutoro, Griffin Ligare, Eugene Adera, Ariel Ortega, Brian Shivachi, Derrick Ogechi, Victor Ochieng', Brandon Muchina, Fidel Okoth, Kenneth Wachira, Bush Wamukota.

 

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