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Mills believes Morans can punch above their weight

THE hard lockdown of Australia last year, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, offered  basketball coach Liz Mills, who grew up in Sydney, time to take stock of her life.

On her reflections during the national lockdown, Mills realised that the break was necessary as she needed to learn to slow down. She also used the time to enhance her basketball knowledge.

“I did a lot of personal growth and professional growth last year. I learned a lot of lessons about slowing down. I took the time to re-evaluate certain things in my life. Basketball-wise I was able to attend online coaching courses and complete a basketball analytic course to solidify and continue to develop my skill-set in coaching,” said Mills, who holds a Master’s degree in her profession.

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Liz Mills believes the process towards winning is more interesting than the end result. Picture: FIBA

Armed with new knowledge in her craft, Mills, who regards Africa as a second home, is back and has already taken up a new challenge. Coaching the Kenya national team, the Morans, who are attempting to qualify for their first FIBA AfroBasket in 28 years.

Oh, definitely! It’s home away, from home. Every time I fly back, I am over-joyed to be here. Last year was difficult. It was the first time in nearly a decade that I had not been to Africa, sometime during the year,” said Mills, who takes over a Morans team at the halfway stage of the qualifiers of the tournament to be hosted by Rwanda (24 August-5 September).

Mills, who has coached in Zambia, Cameroon, and Rwanda, believes the Morans, snapped her up because of her technical expertise and experience in the continent.

“I consult with a lot of teams. Many national teams and clubs reach out to me, asking for advanced stats and film breakdowns. So, I have built a reputation for myself. The team manager, Mercine Milimu, reached out to me before the qualifiers started in Rwanda in November. She brought up the idea of me joining the Morans,” said Mills, who took over the reins from Cliff Owour.

The East African nation’s performance during the qualifiers of the first window, in Kigali, convinced Mills she had made the right choice in taking up the head coaching role.

“After watching them participate in Rwanda. I said to myself: ‘This team has potential’. I have been watching them since the AfroCan in 2019. They are a team on the rise. They are a team that’s an underdog, just like Australians. We are seen as underdogs all the time. But we fight well above our weight. So, it seemed like a natural fit. Once I got here I was given the head coaching role. I am excited to be working with this team,” said Mills.



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Kenya resume their group B qualifying campaign in Yaounde, Cameroon (February 19-February 21) with a 1-3 record, following a win over perennial qualifiers Mozambique and losses to powerhouses Angola and Senegal in the first window held in Kigali, Rwanda last year.

Mills is aware of the challenge that lies ahead for the Morans and has already gathered intelligence on Kenya’s opposition.

“Even though I was not able to coach in the first round of qualifiers, I do all the advanced stats for all the games. I am aware of what’s going on. I am very connected, regardless of whether I am coaching or not. It doesn’t feel like I am at a disadvantage, just because I am coming in now. I did not narrow in on a specific team, I was watching everybody, so I have a good grasp of how every team is playing especially in our group,” said Mills, who has high hopes for the Kenya basketball team in the second window.

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Liz Mills had time for some self-reflection during the lockdown in Australia. Pictures: FIBA and Frank Ogallo

“I think what’s exciting about this Morans team, is that they can play so much better than what they did in November. Their areas for improvement are so high. I think they have the capabilities to play at a better level. I don’t think there are many teams currently playing, who have that same level of improvement as the Morans.”

Kenya stands a good chance of qualifying and while arriving at that destination is important, Mills opined that the journey of getting there is just as critical.

“I think at the end of the day it’s about how much we can improve. We are not chasing wins. We are working on the process that can get us wins. We want to improve against Angola and Senegal. Reduce the margins of error. If we can get the win, that’s great. And of course, Mozambique is a team with a lot of experience, so we must respect them,” said Mills.

The Australian-born coach is also breaking new ground as a female head coach of a men’s team, a milestone she acknowledges.

“I’ve always been very warmly welcomed by the clubs and national teams I’ve worked with. Across the continent, I’ve been embraced by the basketball community, who have seen my dedication to growing the game here,” continued Mills.  “I’ve been lucky to work with clubs and national federations who are open-minded in terms of their hiring approach. I take being a role model very seriously and understand that young boys and girls need to see women in leadership positions. We need to provide intelligent, strong and independent female role models for the next generation of children growing up.”

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