After years of financial turmoil, Nakuru Basketball Club has been relegated from the Premier League.
The team, which failed to honour several fixtures last season, will now play in the National Division One League, after it was unable to pay their registration fee, a mandatory requirement by Kenya Basketball Federation.
Head Coach Fidel Ongolo is a disappointed man after all his hard work last season came to nought.
“There is nothing we can do when we have been pushed to the wall. We just have to accept the way things are right now. It’s a painful experience to drop out of the league but we’re taking a season at a time,” Ongolo told Nairobian Sports.
When it was formed 25 years ago, its exploits in the national league made it the talk of Nakuru town (now city).
It was first registered in then-Rift Valley Provincial League before being promoted to the National Division One League and, thereafter, the Premier League.
It was feared by clubs visiting Nakuru for league matches and during tournaments held to mark national days such as Labour Day Cup and Jamhuri Day at its Menengai High School home ground. Fans used to throng the school’s basketball court to watch the club take on opponents.
For close to three decades, the club not only excelled in the league but also produced top players who went on to join the paid ranks abroad.
Its players in the national team were a force to reckon with in the local and international scene.
Clubs sponsored by parastatals and corporates such as Kenya Farmers Association, Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Airways and Co-operative Bank of Kenya always raided Nakuru Basketball Club for talent.
They were attracted by lucrative offers from these clubs, some of which offered employment.
Some of the players who moved abroad include the Sudanese duo of Abrady Mabior and Nick Quon Anyang’ who went to ply their trade in Australia and United States, respectively. Victor Orare plays for Dubai Royals.
Mabior plays for FC Colingwood Basketball Club in the Australian Basketball League while Anyang’ settled for Trevecca University side where he was studying in Nashville, Tennessee in the US.
Mabior left Nakuru Basketball Club in 2013 for further studies before Anyang’ followed suit in the 2017/18 season, paving way for the emergence of more stars later in the likes of George Kiarie (who plays in Uganda) and marauding forward Michael Kariuki, now a coach.
They all passed through the hands of veteran tactician Richard Kanda.
For now, the new sensation is Oman-based Ariel Okal, The Morans play maker.
“We loved the game and played as a team and out of passion. There was also sound management and allowances were paid on time as opposed to now when we are completely facing financial difficulties,” said Ongolo, who is also a former player.
He admitted that the club is on its deathbed and unless a well-wisher comes to their rescue, they could be disbanded.
“We have tried to approach different well-wishers and the corporates to bail us out but all our efforts have failed,” said the coach.
Currently, the club has about 30 players.
Ongolo confirmed that the club cannot sustain its operations and the situation has gone from bad to worse.
“We are in the Intensive Care Unit as a club and all we need is financial resurgence for our salvation,” he said.
The team has a debt of Sh120,000 and if they do not get help, the unmatched talent is likely to go to waste, unless they can get greener pastures.
“If at all we happen to strike a deal with a financier today, all will be well and we might possibly return back to where we belong,” he said.
The club has also appealed for financial assistance from the Nakuru County government, following their failure to honour matches last season without success. .
“We made a detailed proposal to the county government hoping they could come to our rescue but all that ended in vain,” said Ongolo.
Nakuru County Director of Sports Alice Gekonde said they are willing to assist the club but it must make fresh proposals to her office.
“We are willing to assist them but they must make fresh proposals to my office for us to deliberate on their problem,” she said.
KBF Nakuru Branch Chairman Peter Odhiambo said he will seek audience with relevant authorities and well-wishers to see if the matter could be solved amicably.
“We are assessing the gravity of the matter as a branch federation and see on ways we could assist the club,” he said.