When Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) lines up in Egypt for the newly-created FIBA Africa Women’s Basketball League (AWBL) finals, one thing will be on the mind of coach Anthony Ojukwu.
The seasoned coach has travelled to this tournament numerous times, formerly known as the FIBA Africa Champions Cup for Women, but a podium finish remains a tall order. But now, in his opinion, is the moment to alter that story.
By dominating home team Rwanda Energy Group (REG) 87-55 in the final of the FIBA Africa Zone 5 AWBL qualifiers earlier this month at the Lyncee gymnasium in Kigali, Ojukwu won his 11th regional crown.
He later said that his immediate focus now shifts to the AWBL Finals that begin today.
The tactician has been to too many continental showdowns over the years and he is well aware that to be successful in the Africa Club Championship, a team must fire from all cylinders.
Ojukwu has an unmatched success both at the local and regional front but he has nothing to show for it at the biggest podium where KPA have been eclipsed in all their appearances.
Ojukwu is convinced that it is only a matter of time before the 15-time Kenya champions make a name for themselves.
“I had a good team in Kigali, but to be the best in Africa, we need to add another big player and a play-maker who can also shoot the ball to our roster,” said Ojukwu.
“It is about time that KPA dines with the queens of Africa basketball. I am determined and will continue working hard to achieve this goal.”
The Kigali event saw Victoria Reynolds, a daughter to Kenya Morans 1993 Afro Basket centre “Big” Ben Wanjara bag the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
Sensational centre Media Okot was the event’s best rebounder. The duo was joined by Betty Kalanga (REG), Tetero Odille (APR), Kamba Yoro Diakite (Gladiators) in the team of the tournament.Okot, who also earned top rebounding award in Maputo finals last December, yanked 27 rebounds in the Kigali final game. Together with Nigerian Ifunaya Okoro, they made the team of the tournament while guiding KPA to fifth place.
Captain Natalie Akinyi, fresh from winning Kenya the Africa 3x3 title, dished out a staggering 17 assists. American Morgan Greene, Selina Okumu and Hilda also played major roles for the Mombasa based dockers in that win.
This gives Ojukwu confidence knowing that last year they lost 78-67 to Alexandria Sporting Club in the Zone Five finals.
In Kigali, KPA were dominant whipping REG, JKL Dolphins (Uganda), JKT Stars and Vijana Queens (Tanzania) as well as Nile Legends (South Sudan).
Team cohesion, he said, was the secret behind their good showing in the competition coupled with hard work and proper scouting by the technical bench.
KPA have battled in many Africa cities but they have not seen a change in fortunes, even in a home championship hosted by Nairobi in 2008. But Ojukwu believe they now have the experience and the personel to achieve that elusive goal.
As KPA prepares for the AWBL finals, Ojukwu is confident that the combination of experience and talented players will position them for a successful campaign, potentially realizing the elusive goal of being among the top teams in African women's basketball.