The name Hosana Kitenge is now firmly known as one of most recognised within junior British Basketball.

The 6ft 7″ powerhouse and skilled Forward led his Charnwood College Riders to the U18 National Cup Playoff Championship picking up MVP Honours which led to “overrated” chants from the opposing crowd. Hosana replies to such claims and tells his story.

The Beginning
I started playing Basketball at the age of 12 at my local Club, Crawley Cagers. I originally started playing because of my older brother Wayne. He was one of the best players on his team and in the county. I remember watching him and thinking that I want to be that good or even better than him one day.

I played my first season of organised basketball at the u12 local league, my mother and brother were always at my games. Often I would come off the court upset with my performance; as I felt that I wasn’t making a big impact for my team.

My mum would tell me at the age of 12 that “people don’t just wake up talented, people don’t just wake up and have the ability to play basketball you need to turn up to every practice like it is the last practice you will ever have”. My present success is all due to my coaches, family and their honesty.

Image credit: @SCEBasketball
Image credit: @SCEBasketball

Junior Days
I joined Worthing Thunder that summer with the U13 squad. Halfway through my first season of national league basketball my coach called a meeting with me and told me that at the beginning of the season he wasn’t too sure if he was even going to take me on to the squad because he thought that I wasn’t ready for that level yet. He told me he was having second doubts about my future with the team.

I told myself from that moment on when it came to basketball no one would ever have second doubts about what I was capable of. I told myself no one would ever need to question my talent level and how hard I will work. 

The second half of that season I asserted myself into that squad as I became a starter and a dominant figure in the league. I would say this is where the energy and the drive that I play with today came from; because I knew now what I was playing for, and I had my motivation. Looking back on it now, that conversation with my old coach was the most career forming conversation I would say I had; as it drove me and motivated me. We finished the season 18-0 and finished 3rd in England at final fours.

The following year we went undefeated again in the u14 premier league, 18-0. We cruised through the first and second round of playoffs. Then faced Manchester in the semi final where we ended up winning by 20 points. We then faced London Greenhouse in the final where we won by 3. I finished the game with 17 points, 18 rebounds, 6 blocks, 2 steals and an MVP award. That Season was what many people called my break out season, my coaches and family told me that it was only the beginning.

The Next Level
I then made my international debut for the England national team at the u16 level, where we finished 5th at the European championships. My u16 season was full of ups and downs, as this was my first season of playing in Division 1 mens basketball with Worthing Thunder.

I was coached under my u16 coach Daniel Hildreth where due to the Division 1 team, my junior basketball took a back seat and I missed a lot of key games which led us to finish 4th that season, however we were at full strength at the playoffs where we once again made it to final fours beating Newham Youngbloods, who were the top seed in the south. Then taking on Haringey, the second seed in the south in the final where we won by 12. I finished the game with 17 points, 18 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 assists and an MVP award.

My Move to Charnwood
This was a decision that I had made from very early on, after seeing players like Josh McSwiggan and Henri Langton come out of Charnwood and the Loughborough programme. I knew that it was the type of development and high level of game that I was striving for from a young age.

I also knew the coaches Mark Jarram, Krumesh Patel and Will Maynard from previous national team camps and visits. I felt that this was the place I wanted to spend the next two years of my career developing, not only as a player but also as a person.

I’m fortunate enough to have suited up for the Riders in the summer playing against Portland University. Where I got even more of a feel for the programme, as this was also an opportunity to play at the Leicester Arena in front of a big atmosphere.

My first regular season with the Loughborough Student Riders was a great success in the NBL Division one after being crowned champions of the league. This achievement is one I will carry on with me until the end of time as it hopefully is one of my many senior titles. Our team has overcome so much adversity from injuries, we have travelled all over the country week in and week out and delivered our season objectives week after week.

On my team I bring the same level of energy I bring to every game and practice as I know that this is very contagious in our environment and I know that is the environment we want to breed and live in, in everything we do wether that be practice or games. Just turning 17 and playing the minutes I play at such a high level keeps me motivated as I know I’m one of the very few who can come into a mens league and impact it the way I do at my age.

The u18 National Final saw me pick up my 3rd National Finals MVP award. I have always loved playing on a big stage, against great players, under pressure. I started off very slow and only had 4 points at the end of the first quarter. I was thinking to myself that it was time for me to take over; I came out of the quarter break on FIRE!  I went on a 12 point run by myself at the beginning of the 2nd. This run was capped off with a buzzer beating fall away shot; which grew our lead to 30.

I went into the locker room at the half with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists in 14 minutes of playing. I came out of the half with the exact same attitude and determination to win the game. At the start of the 4th quarter, I was at the free throw line with 22 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks with an efficiency of +42.

However, clearly the Manchester fans saw something else during that game as when I was just about to take my first free throw… the “OVERRATED” chants started. I swished the first free throw and then the chants got even louder, “OVERRATED!”… swished again.

The chants made me laugh because the crowd, the people and players who were shouting it were the exact same players who came up to me telling me how good I was and how good I played. What was even funnier, was that they didn’t know what sacrifices I have made and what I have been through to be the player I am today.

They don’t understand what it’s like getting cut from your regional team because your coach told you you were, “not talented enough”. They don’t know what its like to not even make your own national league team. They don’t know what its like to travel 1 and a half hours by train and walk in the rain everyday just to practice. 

All I can do is smile, because I know how hard I have worked to be in the position that I am today. But more importantly, I smile because I know I’ve got so much more to learn and give.

– Hosana

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