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Basketball. Liz Mills, the Australian backpacker who made Kenyan basketball recover

Thousands of kilometers from her hometown of Sydney, Liz Mills will surely make history Wednesday in Kigali when her team takes on Côte d’Ivoire: she will become the first woman to lead a men’s team at the AfroBasket, the African Nations Championship, and further cement her exceptional standing in world basketball and in general in the sport.

“I am very fortunate and grateful to have had this opportunity in Africa. I know I couldn’t have had it elsewhere,” Liz Mills told AFP.
His African adventure began in Zambia in 2011, as a volunteer during a humanitarian mission. She requested to coach a team for the 2011-2012 season, without leading a team until then.

First attempt, major hit: His team won the national title. “I was a bit rare,” she adds. “Je me sentais parfois mise à l’écart, à cause de mon âge et évidemment de mon sexe. Cela ne devrait pas être le cas, mais malheureusement c’est la même chose partout dans le monde pour lessa femmes dîent ‘” Men”.

“A dream come true”

Having worked as an assistant coach for the men’s teams in Zambia and Cameroon, Mills took charge of “Moran”, the nickname given to Kenyan basketball players last January, and wasted no time.

“Back in 2012, I said in Zambia that I wanted to be the first woman to train at AfroBasket,” Mills recalls. “Qualifying for Moran is a dream come true. There was a lot of ups and downs to get here, but I’m so glad I got there.”

In athletic clothes, but wearing high-heeled shoes, to get closer to his skilled players, Mills fulfilled his dream last February when his team secured their ticket to Afrobasket by beating Angola 74 to 73, and was crowned African champions 11 times.

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According to her, African basketball is “evolving in the right direction”: “I think it is only improving in quality thanks to the development of NBA academies, programs such as” Giants of Africa”, “Basketball Without Borders” and independent camps for juniors. “

When asked about the secret to her success as a coach, Mills insisted on her core philosophy: building good relationships with her players.

“The first stage”

“The players don’t really care what you know. Above all, they want us to take care of them, not only as players, on the pitch, but also as people,” he says.

She wants to build on this philosophy to achieve her next goal: Kenya’s qualification for the 2025 World Cup.

The 34-year-old Australian insists, “AfroBasket is the first step on a long journey to the World Cup. It has always been one of the best African teams.”
“We’re not going to put an end (…) We’ll surprise a lot of teams,” she warns, as Kenya faces off in Group C from AfroBasket to former African champion Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria. who participated in the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo and Mali.

And this is not her only mission: she hopes that her career will provide ideas for other federations and coaches.

“My goal is to keep the door open for other women and encourage them. I hope in the coming years we can talk about the 100th or 500th woman to do what I did this year,” she insists.