Basketball opened doors to new life experiences

THE life of a pro basketball player is not as glamorous as sports fans would like to think. It does take it’s toll on you: being away from family, friends, hopping from one country to another, it’s all work. Another hoop I have had to jump through is the language barrier, which I have experienced in all the countries I have played in.

I am from Kenya and have played basketball in several countries: Oman for three seasons with two different teams and a stint in the Seychelles.

While it is all work, the experience has been deeply educational: new cultures, new people, and new food. All this has formed part of a life-changing experience off the court, and I would not trade it for anything.

Kenya in action
Ariel Okall celebrating with a Kenya Morans teammate. Picture: FIBA

When I think about it, basketball has opened the doors for me to immerse myself in new surroundings and gain a different perspective of life and how I live it.

This year, my basketball journey has taken me to Algeria, where I joined Union Sportive Setifienne. While the move was great for me and my stay here has been good, unfortunately, it has come at a time when the world is going through a crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has stifled the careers of many athletes, myself included. Without sports, our lives as athletes are impacted in certain ways. We can no longer play or practice the way we are used to, because gatherings are illegal now.

I have only played four games for my new team and I was adjusting well to the system. Honestly, I miss the action. The game is life to me and without it, I feel like a part of me has been ripped out and it causes me pain sometimes.

Mostly, I miss the intense practice where I am pushed to the limit. I feel that’s what brings out the best in me.


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One thing I have noticed about Algerian basketball is that the teams are competitive and well invested in. It’s hard to say which team is better than the other. So, I hope to get back to that level of competition at some point.

In the meantime, to keep fit I have come up with various ways to exercise and also keep busy. I have a training program. I do all my training indoors with the help of my trainer and also from the team. It has worked well for me, I feel stronger, and I know I have to be ready, because we can start playing anytime.

To stay mentally sharp, I read a lot, I write on my blog, and I watch some of my past games to figure out how to improve my game. It’s always great to keep on studying your game.

During tough times it’s always better if you are close to the people, you love and care about. I miss my family back home, and the food there. East or west home is best!

I hope that the virus will be controlled, and we will be back in action soon to the game we love. In the meantime, let’s stay safe and keep working. Basketball will rise again!



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