Kenya and Thunder shooting guard Griffin Ligare fondly known as “Kenya One” in basketball circles usually avoids sharing his thoughts about the state of the league, sponsorship and his team Thunder.
He has built his “Kenya One” brand on being all-inclusive, not unnecessarily angering segments of his massive following. Instead, behind the scenes, he continues to work on his game day in day out to remain at the top, does charity work and lends his name to causes he believes in.
Griffin was injured during the Africa City Challenge tournament last July and without a doubt Thunder are missing his services. Will he be back in time to lead his team to another good run this season?
Basketball254 caught up with Griffin;
Where did you start and what has your journey been like?
I started playing in Nanyuki. We lived in the barracks so we had a decent sports facility. I played soccer more than basketball when I was in primary school but switched to more basketball all year round after joining high school (Sipili High School). I then went to Kenyatta University and was a Pirate for four years, during which I experienced tremendous growth. Later, I joined Thunder (formerly ICC) where I play up to date. In addition, I have been honored to play for the National Team and great combined teams like the Nairobi Team a couple of times. Losing and injuries are the toughest experiences I have had to deal with but the journey has generally been great, and I thank God for the progress I have made all along.
How do you feel being called Kenya One?
It’s an honor. It talks a lot when people refer to you like that. It shows that as a player I am way above the curve.
You got injured a few weeks ago. Will you be playing any time soon?
I feel like I’m good to go right away. The surgeon, however, asked me to stay away for two months after the procedure so I’ll follow his orders. I will be back in September.
What’s your training schedule like?
We have two mandatory sessions each week where we train as a team. I train on my own the rest of the days; putting up shots, working on my ball handling skills and pickup games.
Why have you continuously turned down offers from KPA, COOP etc. and remained in a team perceived to be weak and unstable?
We train late, which is in tune with my work schedule and that makes it possible for me to go for basketball after my hustle. All those teams are great teams and it is my dream that Thunder will get to that level before I retire.
Why has Thunder always fallen short of the title?
We are a self-sponsored team and this limits us down the stretch. In terms of financial support, we are limited when it matters and that’s when we crumble.
With the current poor run without you, do you think Thunder will perform well?
Yes. I am confident in my team mates.
What changed that our national team no longer performs well?
Preparation. It’s always not good enough or not sufficiently facilitated as it should and I believe if it wasn’t for the effort of the players it would have been worse. We still put in work without supervision and even when the National Team does not have any assignment coming up.
In your opinion, why doesn’t the league have sponsorship?
I think sponsorship issues are dealt with by the management since it’s at that level that such conversations are held. Since other sporting disciplines have sponsors, I don’t think the problem is lack of sponsors but the inability of our management to get sponsors on board.
Who do you think will win the championship this year?
That is not easy to tell because the game changes during the playoffs. For sure, for men Co-op and the defending champs will look good at that time as they will be coming from the Zone V championship. We, Thunder will also give it a good run. For the ladies, I think the defending champs are trying to get a repeat run since they have brought in new pieces this year.
What’s your go-to escape from basketball?
Home chilling and a lot of PS4’.
You have a massive fan base; numerous young players looking up to you. Any advice to them?
I thank my fans for their support and prayers. For the young players, God above everything. Academics are equally important. Get decent grades in school and work on your basketball craft every day. Anyone can be great as long as they strive for it.