How Georgia Adhiambo is living her dream in Rwanda as Kenyan basketball league struggles

Kenyan national basketball team player Georgia Adhiambo (left) who plays in Rwanda. [Courtesy]

If lexicographers were to search for an image to help describe meekness, then Kenya basketball star Georgia Adhiambo’s face would be a near-perfect description.

Women’s national team captain and former United States International University of Africa (USIU-A) player Hilda Indasi says Adhiambo’s character is worthy of admiration by all because even when the situation calls for retaliation, she turns the other cheek.

“She (Adhiambo) is one of a kind; her meekness is out of this world, I have seen situations where I would have had my claws out but she has always walked away,” Indasi said.

Her meek nature blended with talent, hard work and discipline have seen her make a name for herself locally and internationally, eventually joining paid ranks as one of the few Kenyans who play professionally.

Born and bred in Nairobi, Adhiambo says she owes her success to her mother who raised and supported her after her father’s death.

“My mother has been very supportive and walked this journey with me. My father died when I was five years old so she has always urged me to keep pushing even when it seemed like all odds were against me,” Adhiambo said.

She is currently playing for Ubumwe Basketball Club, in the six-team Rwanda Basketball Federation women’s league.

“The management and organisation of sports here (Rwanda) is top notch, they have ensured that we play and remain safe while at it. It is very exciting to be in a bubble.”

She traces her journey back to Kariokor Flats where began playing basketball at her home court when she was 12.

Kenyan national basketball team player Georgia Adhiambo (right) who plays in Rwanda. [Courtesy]

“There was a court where we stayed so I developed interest in the sport. I preferred learning how to play basketball rather than other games that interested children of my age at the time,” she added.

Adhiambo who admits that football was her first love says that she is thankful to Harrison Klaudia who she fondly refers to as coach Harry who taught her the basics of the game.

“I’m very grateful to coach Harry because he gave me my first basketball lessons and nurtured me to the point that I could get noticed by other coaches. He was very patient and would encourage me as well as my friends to put in more effort so we could improve and become better players.”

She later joined Form One at Hospital Hill School where she played football and handball. As fate would have it, former United States International University of Africa (USIU-A) basketball coach George Mayienga had seen her potential.

Mayienga realised high school was the best place to develop Adhiambo’s talent failure to which to would have gone to waste. He ensured Adhiambo’s basketball talent was saved by securing her transfer to city basketball powerhouse and reigning national secondary schools champions Buruburu Girls.

“Coach Mayienga had seen me in training and believed that I had potential to succeed in basketball. Even then Buruburu Girls was a big name in basketball and so he secured my transfer to the school and I got a chance to compete in school games.”

In 2010 and 2011, Adhiambo led Buruburu to third place finish at the national school games earning her side a ticket to the East Africa secondary schools extravaganza under coaches Julius Otieno and Mike Oluoch.

“Competing at the national and East Africa games helped shape the player I am today. Despite being very competitive, the games were very exciting and even though we never won a trophy, I learned valuable lessons.”

Her preference for basketball over football and handball bore instant fruit after she secured a sports’ scholarship at USIU-A in 2012 having done her form four exams in 2011.

Doreen Nyaga of KCAA (R) fights for the ball with Georgia Adhiambo (L) of KPA during their Basketball encounter at the Kenyatta Sports Ground during the ongoing KECOSO Games Festivals [Phillip Orwa, Standard]

“Looking back I’m happy with the choice I made because basketball paid for my university education. I pursued a degree in Tourism Management and now I have something to fall back on when I’m done playing,” Adhiambo who also aspires to venture into coaching said.

Adhiambo’s star continued to shine as USIU-A Flames dominated the Kenya Universities Sports Association (KUSA) games winning back to back titles from 2013 to 2016. She says that as a student athlete, 2014 was her best year after they won both the KBF league title and the FIBA Zone Five trophy.

“It was a very good year, we were not only unstoppable but were determined to win both trophies. The teamwork was great; we played every match as if it was a final.”

Following a successful five-year stint with Flames, it was time to move on from the varsity side and her next stop was at the Coast where signed for KPA in 2017.

She triumphed with the Dockers bagging the league and Zone V gongs. Her prowess did not go unnoticed at the regional championship held in Kampala and Ugandan side A1 Challenge Club Ladies Basketball Club sought her services.

She sealed her first professional deal in 2018 with A1 Challenge and turned out for the side in the Uganda women’s league for two seasons reaching the semi-final play-offs.

Her club lost to JKL Dolphins in 2018 and Uganda Christian University in 2019. This year she signed for the Rwandan outfit, but before she settled Covid-19 pandemic forced her to shelve her ambitions.

“It feels good earning from what I love and enjoy doing, basketball pays my bills. I hope that players back home can also get a chance to make a living from their talents, they play for the love of the game but most clubs can’t even afford match allowances let alone salaries,” Adhiambo said.

She adds that what puts Rwanda above her East Africa geighbours is good management and commitment from federation officials and all basketball stakeholders.

“Rwandese have a passion for basketball and everyone involved makes sure they give their best. From the federation, clubs and individuals all work together for the good of the game. The league is sponsored by Bank of Kigali and individuals are also keen to contribute to the development of the sport by sponsoring some clubs that are yet to find corporate funding.”

Kenyan national basketball team player Georgia Adhiambo who plays in Rwanda. [Courtesy]

For instance Ubumwe can afford Adhiambo’s services thanks to a group of individuals who sponsor the club.

She adds that Kenyans must invest in basketball and the national body should also enhance the efforts of securing a sponsor for the league.

Clubs on the other hand should capitalise of social media platforms like Facebook, twitter and Instagram to grow their fanbase so as to attract sponsors.

Sports runs in her family as her aunt Caroline Kola, the best female heptathlete in Kenya so far.

She holds the Kenyan heptathlon record of 5407 points set during the 1994 Common Wealth Games held in Victoria, Canada.

Her brother Cerry Otieno had a successful handball career with Cereals Board and also represented Kenya in a number of international assignments.  

Adhiambo made her senior national team debut in 2014 and has since been a regular in the Kenya Lionesses squad with her recent assignment being the 2019 women’s AfroBasket contest held in Dakar, Senegal.

Prior she played for Kenya in the 2010 under-18 competition in Egypt. “I always wanted to play for Kenya and when I got my first call up I never looked back, I worked very hard to secure my place in the final 12 that played in Kampala and I have since improved my skills to ensure that I retain my place in the team.”

On her work ethic Indasi says that Adhiambo is a charismatic team player who everyone would desire to have on their team.

She is very passionate about the game, charismatic and she always puts others needs ahead of hers. She is also a team player on and off and can easily fit anywhere. She respects everyone and strives to make life easier those around her,” Indasi said.

Adhiambo who idolises Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker and Kevin Durant urges upcoming players to maintain high levels of discipline, work hard and make use of technology to improve their skills and prowess in the game.

“Discipline, hard work and determination will take you places. Talent alone is not enough to make one successful. They must also take advantage of technology and platforms like YouTube and apps that show live games to improve their skills because no matter how good a player is there is always something you can learn by watching others,” Adhiambo continued.

She has set her eyes on succeeding as a coach with the aim of helping upcoming players excel.

I have interest in coach and my goal is to see the players I train succeed on and off pitch. I want them to excel beyond basketball, get scholarship opportunities and accomplish something in their lives. To see them doing well I must say will be my biggest achievement.”


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