24 May 2015

KENYA : Kenyan international Atieno impressed by intense Nigerian league

  • Lynette Atieno in action for her Zenith basketball team.(Photo:Courtesy)
Nigerian Basketball IS More Basic Than In Kenya, Lynette Atieno Kenyan international forward Lynette Atieno who was signed by Nigerian basketball giants First Bank this season is impressed with the level of the game in her new base and feels the local league still has long way to go to get to the standards in West Africa.
Speaking for the first time after joining the Zenith Bank National Female Basketball League defending champion and six-time winners, she drew parallels between the two leagues but admits Kenyan league is equally competitive.
“The training sessions alone are tougher and competitive thus everything here is about basic basketball. Most of Kenyan basketballers don't like basic basketball while here players have got the basics, the talent and above all the effort,"she told sportsnewsarena.com.
Sponsorship is another aspect that Atieno says the Nigerian league stands out from the Kenyan. Unlike in Kenya where both men and women leagues are under the sponsorship of DSTV who double up as official broadcaster, the Nigeria women league has its own sponsor in Zenith Bank Nigeria Plc while digital satellite TV service sponsors the men’s league.
This season alone, the bank upped its sponsorship package from N25 million to N30 million. She says that has helped a lot in transforming the league.
“Everything here about the league is constructive and in order. There are no game postponements, no walkovers and every team is disciplined compared to Kenya where we have a lot of those,” she observed.
Furthermore, some of the states in Nigeria which is an equivalent of counties in Kenya have their own teams playing in the league. That has further helped to grow the game from grassroots. “In Kenya, no single team is sponsored by any district.”
First Bank head coach Aderemi Adewunmi scouted Atieno at the African women's club championship in Tunisia last year and immediately initiated the process to sign her.
At the time, she was playing for Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). Her coach at the time Anthony Ojukwu helped her ink the deal having gotten offers from Tunisia and Mozambique as well.
“The head coach approached me and asked if I was interested playing in Nigeria and I said yes. A month later, I got a call from the coach and now I am here.”
Dream come true
The Nigerian league is one of the top in Africa and Atieno could not have asked for a better experience. “Am feeling so happy and humbled to play in one of the best leagues in Africa, achieving my dreams too and setting my goals high. I am putting in extra effort and hard work so that I become an example to the upcoming basketball players back in Kenya.”
Since her arrival in Lagos back in March, she has not had easy time settling down.
“My biggest challenge is food because they all contain pepper which I don't eat. The other thing is their pidgin English that I am still learning but the environment is so nice, it resembles that of Mombasa,” she said.
The 24-year old has contributed heavily to their 8-game winning run thus far.
“The experience has been fantastic. I have learned a lot and the technical bench as well as teammates are very loving and caring. I got a warm welcome.”
While in High School, she played soccer and volleyball but had learn't how to play basketball at the age of 12. She attributes all that to the early mentorship of Cliff Owuor who is the current coach of Rwandan club APR.
Atieno went on to play club basketball with Mennonite, Safe Spaces, Co-operative Bank and KPA. In 2008, she made her first major breakthrough representing Kenya at the under-18 basketball championships in Tunisia.
Last year, Atieno was part of the senior team that played at the All Africa Games qualifiers in Uganda. Having achieved all that within a span of few years that many players have been unable to, she sums it up with few words; “your world is what you make of it and sky is just but the beginning.”

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