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bird’s African Basketball Wrap: Kenya upsets Egypt at the FIBA Africa Cup 3×3 games, NBA legend Ron Harper visits Kenya for NBA Africa office launch; Afrobasket qualifiers draw in Johannesburg

KENYA wins at the buzzer against Africa Cup’s reigning champion, Egypt; five-time NBA champion Ron Harper visits Africa for the first time as he participates in a Jr. NBA clinic and NBA Africa's Kenya office launch; and an Afrobasket qualifier draw lays out the road ahead of African basketball’s biggest competition.

KENYA Women’s 3×3 senior national team upset the reigning champions at the recently concluded FIBA Africa Cup 2023 competition in Cairo, Egypt. The Kenyans took the title with a 21-20 buzzer beater by Kenya Ports Authority player Natalie Mwangale.

Kenya and Egypt were both undefeated heading into the final game, with Egypt dominating for the better part of the final game. Then despite Egypt’s 19-13 lead, Kenya mounted a comeback, with the win sealed by Mwangale’s crucial two-point shot in the final second. Team manager Nellie Odera praised the outstanding performance of the 4-woman team, which included Mwangale, Hilda Indasi, Mercy Wanyama, and Madina Okot.

“All players gelled very well. There was a balance of skill and talent, with everyone having the ability to shoot. The player cohesion was fantastic. Mwangale was named tournament MVP thanks to her offensive and defensive prowess, while Okot was the undeniable star of the game with an 11-point, 18-rebound performance. In the men’s category, Egypt took home gold through an unbeaten run in the competition with a strong 18-15 win against Nigeria in the final.

The Kenya Cup team posing for a photo. Photo Courtesy: Official Team Kenya

In another win for East African basketball, the NBA launched their new Africa office in Kenya on November 29. The launch of the office, located in Nairobi’s Westlands, included a Junior NBA clinic hosted at Sabis International School in Runda, followed by an evening cocktail at the Sankara Hotel.

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The JR. NBA clinic hosted 70 boys and girls ages 16 and under from various youth programs in Nairobi in the presence of NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams, Basketball Africa League President Amadou Gallo Fall, the recently named Senior Director and Country Operations Lead, Michael Finley, US Ambassador to Kenya Margaret Whitman and guest of honour, former NBA player and five-time champion Ron Harper.

“I’m honoured to be part of this historic announcement and support the league’s efforts to grow basketball in Kenya and across the continent,” shared Harper at the JR. NBA clinic.

“It has been special for me to engage with the youth here and teach them what I know. I have no doubt that the future of basketball in Kenya is extremely bright thanks to the league’s efforts.”

Harper, who is best known for his time with the Chicago Bulls championship dynasty team (1996–1998) led by Michael Jordan, spent 15 years in the NBA playing with the Chicago Bulls, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, and Cleveland Cavaliers. He also won back-to-back titles with the Lakers in 2000 and 2001.

In a lively Q&A session led by MC and former Kenya women’s national basketball captain (also, the author of this report) Silalei Shani, Harper took guests down memory lane, describing his first championship win with the Chicago Bulls and sharing his thoughts about the endless “GOAT” debate pitting Michael Jordan against Lebron James. He also talked about his favourite African players. “My favourite African player is Manute Bol”.

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Harper also shared words of encouragement with one of Kenya’s top male youth prospects, David Gichohi. “Put your mind to it, believe and work as hard as you can”. He went on to praise the efforts of the NBA to open another office in Africa.

“One thing about the NBA is that we want to make it a global game. I believe in the next 5–10 years there are going to be a lot of African players playing in the NBA. There is an even greater opportunity for the East Africa region with the NBA office here. We have had the chance to work with the youth and the opportunity in Kenya to make it is available now.“

Silalei Shani (left) and five-time NBA champion Ron Harper (right) during the NBA Africa’s Kenya office launch cocktail event in Nairobi Kenya. Photo: Silalei Shani, bird story agency

The new office marks NBA Africa’s fifth office on the continent, joining others in Cairo, Dakar, Johannesburg and Lagos.

Ahead of next year’s Afrobasket qualifiers, the FIBA Afrobasket 2024 qualifiers draw took place at the end of November in Johannesburg on the sidelines of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Elite 16 East Division tournament.

The teams have been pooled into five groups of four teams, as the qualifiers will be played in February and November of 2024, with the venues yet to be confirmed.

BAL Head of League Operations, Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, who conducted the draw, predicted a high level of competition in the qualifiers stage.

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“BAL is raising the level of play in Africa as players get to feature in some high-level matches and we are hoping their involvement in their respective national teams will also improve the quality of basketball witnessed in the Afrobasket and that will elevate the level of the game on the continent,” he shared.

The draw produced the following results:
Group A
South Sudan 
Q z6 Mauritius n Comoros 

Group B
Cape Verde 
Q z1 + z2

Group C 
Q z3 +z4  

Group D
Cote D’Ivore 
Central African Republic 
Q z5 +Madagascar + Djibouti 

Group E 

The Kenya Cup team posing for a photo. Photo Courtesy: Official Team Kenya