Thunder rocking Kenya and eyeing continental participation

DURING the Cape Town Tigers’ match against FUS Rabat two weeks ago, three men quietly walked into the Sunbet Arena clad in the colours of Kenya’s super club, Nairobi City Thunder.

Sitting courtside at the BAL Kalahari Conference match, the men surveyed the scene, making mental notes of the setting they hope to see their club participate in next year. The Thunder, who came under new ownership last year, have caused raptures in the East African country’s basketball landscape.

Colin Rasmussen, founder and CEO of Twende Sports INC (the company that owns Nairobi City Thunder), Stephen Domingo (co-founder and head of basketball operations of Twende) and team coach Bradley Ibs, who were in South Africa for a couple of days, are spearheading the Thunders’ pursuit for a place in the BAL.

Colin Rasmussen
Colin Rasmussen has lived in Kenya for 11 years. Pictures: The BTO

Rasmussen, born in the US but raised in Pakistan, has called Kenya home for the last 11 years. The lifelong hooper has been active in the basketball scene of that country.

“I love basketball and I am passionate about it. Throughout my time there (Nairobi) I have been involved in the basketball scene. I have built courts and been active in the game from a recreational perspective,” says Rasmussen.

The formation of Twende, which means ” let’s go” in Swahili, has helped Rasmussen and partners do their bit to help transform basketball in Kenya.

“Last year, I decided with my business partners to start Twende Sports – a company dedicated to building the basketball ecosystem and promoting the sport,” said Rasmussen, who is from the streetball circuit. “We believe this is also a unique moment for Africa with the NBA investing in the continent. We are now seeing some of the best players in the world coming from Africa.

“The game is growing on the continent, and we want to support that.”

American-born Domingo has family ties to Nigeria and had the honour of captaining the West African nation’s team during the 2021 Afrobasket in Rwanda.

The 28-year-old former Georgetown Hoyas player says he was searching for ways to give back to basketball on the continent. That is when he met Rasmussen.

“It’s been important for me to figure out how to reinvest in basketball on the continent. Colin and I met in 2022 before I graduated (with an MBA). He was working on another venture. Our focus has been working to grow the game in Kenya, East Africa and we want to achieve success on the continent,” said Domingo.

Rasmussen continued in a similar vein as Domingo. He feels the existence of the BAL has changed the game on the continent, and the aim is for the Thunder to compete at that level.

“I felt this is basketball’s moment with the Basketball Africa League. It’s a new platform, and we aspire to have the best team in Africa. We want to prove that through the BAL,” said Rasmussen. “We have created a professional team, which is a first for Kenya because club basketball there has been recreational. It is a professional environment with contracts for players, with long-term commitments to them, and a proper training environment that enables the existing talent to go to the next level.”

Acquiring top talents like Ariel Okall, Ariel Ortega, Faheem Juma, Fidel Okoth, Griffin Ligare, and Albert Odero has made the club a force. The six Thunder players were also part of the Kenya Morans team that played in the 2025 AfroBasket qualifiers in February.

Rasmussen stressed the importance of supporting the national team.

“Our goal is to elevate the game of basketball. Our investment also supports the national team and the ecosystem in Kenya. So, we encourage our players to be part of the national team,” said Rasmussen. “It also benefits us, because it puts the players on the next level platform.”

Stephen Domingo
Stephen Domingo captained the Nigeria national team at the 2021 AfroBasket in Rwanda.

While Kenyan players are the core of the Thunder, Domingo highlighted the importance of tapping into the expatriate communities for talent.

“Any good roster has a thesis behind it. Ours is that the Kenyan players are the backbone of the team. There is also a large South Sudanese population in Nairobi. Within that community are talented players who are looking for opportunities… So, it’s talent we should not lose out on,” said Domingo.

Rasmussen and Domingo are on track to fulfilling their ambition for the Nairobi-based club. The undefeated Thunder, who have a 16-0 record in the Kenya Basketball League (KBL), are on course to finish top. With a place in the KBL playoffs guaranteed, the goal is to win the league and set themselves on the path to the pinnacle of African club basketball.

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