Dear Preston,

What a crazy couple of months it has been! After years of hoping and desiring to come to Kenya and meet my family, as well as represent Kenya at the international level, God answered my prayers. It wasn’t an easy process, but after a ton of paperwork and patience, I finally arrived in Kenya in early November 2020. Landing in Kenya was pretty surreal and it didn’t sink in that I was actually there until a few days later. It was great getting to meet the team and practice with them straight away. They welcomed me in and I felt like I bonded with the guys immediately. Once everyone arrived and got into camp, we were having competitive practices and growing our team chemistry on and off the court. I could tell that this was a group that was locked in and ready to seize the opportunity to make history. I was very excited leading up to Rwanda, as I hadn’t played a game in nearly 8 months. I knew there was a small possibility that I wouldn’t  get to play if we didn’t get the passport in time, but truth be told I wasn’t worried or stressing about it. When the news did break, the night before the Senegal game, that I wasn’t going to be able to play, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I had just spent a month preparing and training and now I was going to have to sit and watch from the sidelines. However, I quickly brushed that aside and as I’ve always done, I put it into the Lord’s hands and trusted that he had a plan for me. I also didn’t want to bring negativity to the team and wanted them to focus on winning the games. I was happy to cheer the guys on and help in whatever way I could from the bench.

Preston Bungei in Kigali Rwanda, photo via FIBA

After getting back to Kenya from Rwanda, I had the opportunity to go to Kapsabet and meet all of my family. Getting to see the house and land where my father grew up was an unforgettable experience in addition to meeting my two uncles, four aunts, and sixteen cousins in person for the first time. Kapsabet was a literal breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. So as much as I was disappointed to not be able to play in the first window, I left Kenya with nothing but gratitude. I had met my family and gained life-long friends in the short time that I was there.
When the second window of qualifiers, I was super excited as I had already been granted my clearance from FIBA and knew that I would be for sure playing this time. Upon arriving in Cameroon, I was elated to see my teammates and have the opportunity to spend some more time with them. Truth be told, I’ve never had as much fun playing basketball as I’ve had with the Morans. The team is always joking around and having a good time off the court, and when we are on the court, everyone is playing for the betterment of the team and to win. I’ve been on a lot of teams filled with selfish guys who only care about their stats and how they do. So it has been refreshing to play with a group that genuinely cares about winning, accepts their roles, and do what they can to help the team win.

Preston Bungei in action against Senegal at the Afrobasket Qualifiers in Yaounde Cameroon, Photo courtesy FIBA

I’ll never forget standing with the guys and listening to the national anthem being played before the game against Senegal. That’s when everything sunk in for me and truth be told, I became a bit emotional. I was thinking about my dad and how I wished he could be here to watch me represent Kenya. After that, I had to lock back in and focus on the task at hand which was beating Senegal. Unfortunately, we ran out of gas in the second half but I left that game feeling confident and ready for Angola the next day. In the warm-ups before playing Angola, I knew we had a great chance at winning when I asked Tylor how he was feeling. He told me that he felt great and that he was going to play. I had a funny feeling about the Mozambique game and told the guys before taking the floor,

“We end it here tonight and qualify with this win. Let’s go out and make history.”

And literally the rest is history. Tylor hit the shot which will live in Kenyan basketball history forever.

As for the Afrobasket, I want to be more consistent on the offensive end. I missed crucial shots I’d normally make against Senegal and those baskets could’ve helped to keep us in the game when we were struggling to score in the second half. I’m typically a very efficient player but in this tournament I wasn’t up to my usual standards, efficiency wise. I think that my defense was great, especially down the stretch against Angola. I really just want to be the steady presence for the team that can get us a good shot when needed or set my teammates up to get them going. I know that with a good training camp, we will only improve and get better as a team. I’m excited to get back to Kenya this summer and get to work with the guys! This is just the beginning for the Morans, I’m excited to see what God has in store for us next!

Editor: Brenda Mwaniki

By Ariel Okall


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