When Kenyan basketball graced the world stage

Kenya’s women basketballers made their sole appearance at the FIBA World Championship for Women in 1994.’Coached by the legendary Tom Munyama and his assistant Harry Maina (both deceased), they had secured qualification to the global championship after losing 89-43 to hosts and eventual winners Senegal at the final of the 1993 FIBA Women’s AfriBasket Championships played in Dakar, Senegal.

1993 Africa Championships

The team’s exploits were certainly unexpected. They began their campaign with a 65-37 loss to Senegal before wins over Ivory Coast (68-45) and Mali (60-44) saw the East Africans finish second in Pool A, setting up a semi-final clash against fancied Zaire (latter day DR Congo).

A 64-53 win over Zaire saw the team set up a repeat clash against Senegal but more importantly earning a berth at the global championships in Sydney, Australia the following year.

FIBA World Championship for Women, June 1994, Sydney, Australia

Playing out of Pool B alongside Canada, Cuba and France, the Kenyans found the going tough, undergoing the proverbial baptism by fire following losses to Canada (109-34), France (108-44) and Cuba (122-51) that saw them finish bottom of the group and out of contention for the championship.

Further losses in the classification rounds to Poland (94-62), South Korea (136-76), Japan (122-66), Chinese Taipei ( 85-80) and New Zealand (93-76) saw Kenya finish in last place (16th overall).

Caroline Omamo and Nasila Achieng

Despite the massive defeats, there were some standout performances, particularly from Caroline Omamo and Nasila Achieng. Omamo landed a scholarship at Abilene Christian University in the USA, entrenching herself in ACU basketball folklore.

She passed away in August 2015 and the tributes from her alma mater were flowing.  Deona Shake, part of the coaching staff during Omamo’s spell at ACU was quoted on the ACU website saying, “She was athletic, graceful, competitive and epitomized poise under pressure. When Caroline was at the high post, we boasted one of the most deadly high-low offenses in the nation.”

Achieng led Kenya’s scoring in Australia, averaging 13 points per game. She would move to the USA where she eventually graduated from the East Central University in Oklahoma before playing for her local side Oklahoma Titans. To date, she still resides in the USA.

Kenya’s roster at the 1994 FIBA World Championships for Women: Caroline Omamo, Queen Olumbo, Jane Makale, Safia Mohamed, Petronila Muthoni, Catherine Shava, Nasila Achieng, Celestine Imbaya, Benter Achieng’, Susan Kariuki, Alice Onono, Miriam Owiti

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