Mmbone: Kenyan star chasing pro-basketball dream in USA

Mmbone: Kenyan star chasing pro-basketball dream in USA

Court Stuff by Dennis Kamariki

When Michelle Mmbone Luhunga got the chance to study at Tigoi Girls in 2018, she knew she thought she had landed exactly where she had wanted to explore how deep her basketball talent was.

Over the next year, she blossomed into one of the finest stars at the institution renowned for its dominance of girls’ basketball in the country and before she knew it an opportunity that would take her to the USA beckoned.

Luhunga gladly took it, accepting the invitation to study at Norfolk Christian High School in the state of Virginia where she excelled in academics and basketball.

At the turn of the year, Mmbone was voted into the all-star team in the Virginia State Western Conference high school championships and also received the team’s best defensive player.

That came after standout performances including a 21-point show in Norfolk Christian’s 60-8 blowout of Arcadia in January.

Excelling in all of her subjects in school, she also earned special honor for exceptional achievement in mathematics.

It has been a wild ride for the 16-year-old who had never got a hold of a basketball five years ago and only got introduced to the sport in by her aunt Everlyne Kedogo upon the completion of her Primary School education.

“My aunt made me interested in basketball. The first time I watched her play she made a three point near the half line; I thought what she had done was so awesome and I wanted to do the same. That’s how it started,” Mmbone narrates.

She admits that while her aunt was her role model and greatest motivator, her Tigoi coach Kenneth Egovwa helped ignite that interest into a burning passion.

“My aunt would come to most of my games when I was in Tigoi. She was always there not only for me but for my team, traveling from Nairobi to Vihiga, Kisumu and even in Mombasa for the national games.

“She was everywhere and anywhere else we would go to play. She has been an impact not only for us her family but for other kids always looking out for the good of the game and for kids to have a better future,” Mmbone adds.

She was identified during a FirstCoach.In clinic conducted at YMCA Shauri Moyo last year by American coach Mike Farris. Mmbone and another Kenyan, Irene Were, were selected as model candidates after demonstrating the desired attributes.

“What I really came to do here is for God’s mission. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of every nation. Am here in a foreign land as God’s disciple and so basketball is a way for me to serve God.  I understand that during my games and training am also worshiping God and doing my best. I will be here until I graduate from high school and am praying that I will get a college scholarship and still study here,” she narrates.

But as we all know living in a foreign land is not easy especially for a girl of her age but Mmone says life isn’t that much different compared to Kenya her home country,

“The weather changes because you have to adapt to all the seasons, winter, summer and fall. Also people say this is a land of freedom. I won’t say it isn’t but you just have to understand and really know what freedom is for you. Some kids will use drugs and more. So how do you use your freedom? That’s a question to always think of,” she adds.

Apart from playing for her school, Mmbone was lucky to join Cap City club where players showcase their talent in every game they play and she is learning from them how to get better because the games aren’t the same as for high school competitions and they are so tough which encourages her to get better and she is working on getting a scholarship for college.

The young ambitious girl dreams of playing for the Kenyan national team and wants to study medicine after completing her High School education.

Mmbone also has good encouraging messages to fellow young girls outside there.

“I will tell young girls to love what they do and do it for the glory of God. It doesn’t matter how easy or difficult it is, just do your best and God will always be there to cheer you up. And whenever you do something and feel tired you shouldn’t stop until you are done,” she said.

As many consider basketball in the USA to be so much different from Kenya, Mmbone has a different opinion.

“I won’t say there are differences because basketball is the same everywhere. It’s playing offense and defense, taking rebounds, working out so you don’t lose your fitness and just realizing you should take it one step at a time because it is a process. When you trust the process you can never go wrong,” she adds.

She says the experience has been great having in mind she wasn’t playing as a point guard back home and now she is a point guard.

Mmbone says the coronavirus pandemic has been an obstacle for players because they don’t get to train or play freely since nobody wants to get sick but adds that the obstacle has also been an opportunity for her to grow and not only in basketball but also in life as there will always be many walls in our journeys to make people give up.

Just as expected she misses her family so much and always hopes to see them even though they communicate through Zoom, WhatsApp etc.

Mmbone seems to have adapted the life and people in the states so well as she loves the people she has met there so far still meeting others in school and from different parts of the country and the world at large something she see to be great because she is learning how to live with people from different places with very different cultures.