Kenya women’s basketball team, Lionesses, will travel to Cameroon for the 2021 Fiba AfroBasket Championship on Wednesday.
The team will fly out a day after the scheduled travel date to reduce chances of players being exposed to health risks at the tournament.
The team, coached by George Mayienga, was initially scheduled to fly to Yaounde on Tuesday morning but will now do so early Wednesday.
“Kenya Lionesses cannot travel on Tuesday as scheduled because the players will be forced to book a hotel upon arrival.
The bubble starts on September 15 and we want to reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19 by heading straight to the bubble from Nairobi,” Kenya Basketball Federation Secretary General Ambrose Kisoi said yesterday.
Mayienga was expected to unveil his traveling squad later yesterday, but US-Based Felmas Koranga is a major doubt for the tournament.
“Felmas Koranga’s availability is not guaranteed as the university is currently in session. There has to be four players from the university going for international duty for the in-person classes to be halted, but at the moment she is the only one. Her absence is not an easy adjustment for the coach to make, that’s why there are delays in announcing the traveling squad,” noted Kisoi as he disclosed that the government had fully sponsored the Yaounde trip.
Apart from Koranga, who will have to fly direct to Cameroon if her university releases her, Mayienga is not expected to make major changes to the team that bagged the Africa Zone V title by thrashing Egypt 99-83 in the final in Kigali.
Victoria Reynolds, Natalie Akinyi and Mercy Wanyama are some of the players that shone in Kigali. America-born Reynolds emerged the Most Valuable Player in Kigali.
Kenya’s journey to the AfroBasket began in 1986 when the team went to Maputo, Mozambique and lost all their matches against DR Congo 150-46, Mozambique 98-67, Angola 80-46 and Cameroon 103-69.
In their second outing in 1993 in Dakar, Kenya lost only to Senegal 65-37 in the opening match and 89-43 in the final.
They had swept aside Ivory Coast 68-45 and Mali 60-44 in other group stage matches, inflicted revenge on DR Congo 64-53 in the semi-finals before being stopped by the Senegalese in the final.
Despite the loss in the final, Kenya advanced to the World Cup in Australia where they finished at the bottom after losing all their matches against Canada, France, South Korea, Japan, Poland, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand.
The Lionesses missed a medal at the 1997 AfroBasket when they fell 90-62 to Nigeria in the third-place playoff in Nairobi.
They had thrashed Uganda, Cameroon and Mali and lost to Senegal at group stage and surrendered against the DR Congo in the semi-final.
Since that time, things have not been working well for Kenya.
In 2007 in Dakar, Kenya defeated only Cape Verde 57-48 at group stage on their way to finishing 12th (last).
Another appearance in Maputo in 2013 ended with a 10th-place finish. In their last AfroBasket outing in Dakar in 2019, Kenya did not win a single match after being outwitted by Mozambique and Cape Verde in their pool and Angola in a playoff match for quarter-finals.
Mayienga’s side is determined to bounce back in Yaounde. The Africa Zone V champions want an automatic quarterfinal ticket from Group “A” and that means defeating Cameroon and Cape Verde.
Other teams assembling in Yaounde are Nigeria (defending champions), Angola and Mozambique (Group B), Senegal, Egypt and Guinea (Group C) and Mali, Ivory Coast and Tunisia (Group D). World Rankings of the competing countries: Nigeria (16), Senegal (31), Mali (41), Mozambique (42), Angola (43), Egypt (48), Cameroon (54), Ivory Coast (55), Kenya (71), Cape Verde (88), Tunisia (90) and Guinea (99).