WCHS grad signs on to play pro basketball in Atlantic Canada

By Garrett Simmons

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Communications Officer

A former Winston Churchill High School student athlete has signed on to play professional basketball in Atlantic Canada.

Ken Otieno graduated from WCHS in 2009 and played Bulldogs basketball and (at the time) led the school to its best finish ever at the 3A Provincial Championship (bronze in 2009). Otieno landed a basketball scholarship at the University of Alberta and played there for five years while completing his BSc.

After being offered a contract in the National Basketball League and another offer in England’s professional league, Otieno decided to sign with the Island Storm in Prince Edward Island. He will join the team in November in preparation for the upcoming season.

Otieno played four years at WCHS, which included three years on the senior-varsity team.

“During the 2009 season, he averaged over 10 rebounds/game and over 20 points/game,” said Kevin McBeath, who coached Otieno at WCHS. “Ken played shooting guard/strong forward. He was very versatile and could virtually play any position we asked of him.”

McBeath added he kept in touch with Otieno and followed his career at the U of A.

“We even took our WCHS team to a game in Edmonton while at a tournament in St. Albert,” said McBeath. “We probably meet face to face once a year for coffee or lunch too, usually when I am marking exams in Edmonton. It’s been easy to stay in touch by text, Twitter and Facebook.”

The coach added Otieno’s game evolved at the university level, but the things that made him stand out at WCHS were also on full display at the U of A.

“He has continued to improve over the years but the core of his game has stayed the same. He has great anticipation and timing, which has made him a great rebounder and defender. He worked hard to become stronger and quicker over the years, as well as a focus on increasing the range on his shot. He is a physical specimen and still has tremendous upside.”

McBeath added Otieno was a key player for him at WCHS, a player the team could depend on each and every night.

“Without Ken, we would not have earned berths at 3A provincials in 2008 (fifth place) and 2009 (bronze). He had other talent on that team, but he was the leader – the catalyst. He also set the stage for our program.”

The coach went on to say WCHS has tried to build off that momentum, as Otieno laid the groundwork for future success for the Bulldogs.

“Prior to Ken’s tenure, our school had only qualified for 3A provincials twice (1998, 2001) and 4A provincials once (1986). Ken helped establish a winning tradition that has seen the Bulldogs qualify for 3A provincials in 2008 and 2009, and then the winning tradition he helped build brought us to 3A provincials in 2012 (sixth place), 2014 (silver) and 4A provincials in 2013 (11th).”

According to the press release from the Island Storm, Otieno averaged 14.3 points and 4.8 rebounds, while shooting 42.7 per cent from the land beyond in his final year with the Golden Bears in Edmonton. In 2013, Otieno had the highest efficiency rating of any player in the CIS.

“To have the highest efficiency rating out of every player in a season says a lot about that player,” said Joe Salerno Head Coach and VP Player Personnel for the Island Storm, in the team press release. “I think Kenny’s ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter and his reputation for versatile, team-first type play is exactly what we look for in players.”

He became a key player for Alberta in his final years, and he admitted transitioning into a lesser role will be a learning curve.

“My coach and teammates put a lot of trust in me as a lead guy. It will be a transition but I’m ready to learn from the older players,” said Otieno in the press release.

Looking at a career in the pros, Otieno called his friends playing overseas to get an idea of the job expectations. He has also done his homework.

“I did a lot of research on the Storm. I know they have done well in years past and that’s one reason why I signed. My main goal is to help them win a championship.”