When Kenyan International Velma Achieng first joined the then Airtel National Basketball League women’s division holders Uganda Christian University (UCU) at the beginning of last year, it was evident that she would struggle to fit in.
Standing at 6ft 2in, Achieng writhed to cope with the demanding philosophy of the UCU team, which required running at opponents, but at the same time it was by design that she had to run back for defense in case of a turn over.
Giving up was never going to hold the center cum small forward in there, hard work was.
“Ugandan basketball values so much the offensive side,” Achieng told kawowo Sports. “When I had just come I was predominantly a defensive player. I had to work so hard to adjust to balancing my offensive and defensive duties, am getting there,” she added.
In fact, that hard work saw Achieng guide UCU to their first Zuku University Basketball League in April when they defeated Makerere University, the same side that beat UCU last year in the same final. The 23-year old was voted Most Valuable Player of the league, a feat that caught her off guard.
“It’s very big, I didn’t expect it, I thought it was Purity (Odhiambo). She is a great a player who held the team together throughout the league.”
Odhiambo disagrees, “I think she (Achieng) deserves the MVP, because she did most of the donkey work as I did the little basic things.”
Odhiambo who was also named the best defensive player of the same league is impressed with the strides Achieng has taken towards development
“Velma has really improved, am getting an easier time playing with her, she has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders because of the hard work she puts in to get better.”
Unlike Achieng, Odhiambo has been part of Ugandan basketball for half a decade now and believes there isn’t much difference between the two countries.
“Competition is almost the same. The Kenyan league has so many good teams and anyone can win the league.” “In Uganda there are about four teams that try to compete and only two show signs of wanting to win the title,” said Odhiambo.
The duo were not the only Kenyans who were recognized, in the men’s version, Brian Nameka of UCU was voted the best defensive player despite losing to Ndejje University in the finals for the second year running.