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Basketball trickster Joe Odhiambo pays visit to Great Falls camp

Posted: 6:29 PM, Jul 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-10 21:28:42-04

GREAT FALLS — Kids at the Church of the Nazarene basketball camp this week were treated to quite the guest speaker, as they got one of the best basketball handlers in the world.

Joe Odhiambo didn’t become a world record holder without a lot of practice. Just ask the elementary schoolers attending the Church of the Nazarene basketball camp this week. The Kenya native practices four-to-six hours a day and can do just about any trick, including the most classic: spinning a basketball on his fingers. He says it’s a great way to connect with kids and teach them character-building skills.

“When you spin a basketball, it speaks every kind of language, and the kids responded to it so much. I thought, ‘Hey, let me try that,'” Odhiambo said. “And then I tried it and it worked out pretty good. I said, ‘I’m going to build a platform where I can use basketball-handling skills to be able to set the stage for my motivational talk.'”

Odhiambo played for the Kenyan National Team that nearly made the Olympics in 1988 and played college ball at Grand Canyon University. Now he performs at roughly 120 schools per year.

“Every night I’ll think of something different. Sometimes I’ll make a mistake and that mistake turns out to be a trick I can perform. So I just got to put them all together,” Odhiambo said.

Overall, Odhiambo has five Guinness world records, which he’s either set, tied or broken 17 times. In Hawaii last month, he re-broke the single-hand spinning record, going 12 minutes and 43 seconds. He believes he’s capable of 20 minutes.

“Basically, I’m waiting for someone to break my record. If they break it, whatever they do, I know I can top it,” he said.

But the most rewarding part of his hard work? It’s not the records; it’s being a positive role model.

“The most important part is giving this kid a platform where they can not only get good instruction, but they can also see a role model. A lot of coaches here are volunteers and they just love what they’re doing,” Odhiambo said. “And in turn, when they get older, they can get brought into the same line of work and we’ll have a good world.”

Odhiambo tentatively plans to return to Great Falls in October for more events.