To those intimately acquainted with Ugandan basketball, the idea of negligible or untimely financial support to the sport from the government has always been the true index of their struggles in terms of ensuring sustainable preparations.
Even in circumstances where the Silverbacks have engendered a national embrace by providing a redemption moment for which the country had waited an entire generation.
The excitement in the aftermath of their qualification to the FIBA 2021 Afrobasket was so vivid that it provoked a debate about the sport on the floor of parliament the previous month. This has however still not been enough to rally the powers that be in the country behind this essential cause.
It has indeed been the same trajectory as manifested by the tale of financial constraints that has since ravaged FUBA despite the Silverbacks’ impeccable work is slaying the Moroccan giant to deliver a successive hat-trick of qualification to this coveted tournament.
The Afrobasket tournament resonates with lots of relevance, echoes with history and matters almost more than any other on the continent. The Silverbacks being part of this is not only a glory-hunt but also an advertisement for Uganda.
Nasser Sserunjogi, the president of the Federation of Uganda Basketball Association (FUBA) has been candid and eloquent enough in highlighting the plight and agony the limited financial support has brought to the sport.
His candour distributes the equilibrium of Ugandan basketball in unforeseen ways-majority of which being awakening. He accentuates that the National Council of Sports (NCS) only availed a budget of Ugx.28 million for the sport, of which money is supposed to be remitted to FUBA in four quarters.
He further made mention of the fact that the entire Ugx 340 million cash grant that was handed to him by the NCS General Secretary Dr. Bernard Ogwel, on Monday (August 16th) was reimbursed to repay the money lenders whose loan was drastically accumulating interest.
I can honestly only write about this adversity in retrospect, especially now that the Silverbacks have finally made the trip down to Kigali and preparations are underway for Wednesday’s baptism of fire against Senegal.
Finesse or defensive masterclass?
Throughout the course of the qualification campaign, the head coach George Galanopoulos and his assistant Mandy Juruni managed to put up an industrious and young team, who superbly and delicately executed results for which the Ugandan basketball fraternity thirsted.
The epitome of this perfection was exemplified in July this year with a mouthwatering display against Morocco in Rabat. It was at this same time that Arthur Kaluma and Keiran Zziwa were introduced to the myopic eyes of Ugandans.
A feeling of wonder and awe illuminated many who had never envisaged watching the Silverbacks play with such industry, command, offensive prowess and also fabulously take to the cleaners a basketball powerhouse like Morocco.
The only gap was the absence of an able bodied and athletic player in the Centre position bearing in mind the fact that Uganda doesn’t have the luxury of fielding A’Darius Pegues whose spot on the roster is currently occupied by Ishmail Wainwright.
The management team of Albert Ahabwe however seem to have found a remedy for this with the introduction of Adam Seiko to the fold. He is a huge and muscular player with Uganda heritage who offers a balance between offense and defense in his game.
Seiko is an elder brother to 19-year-old Arthur Kaluma who only made his debut for the team the previous month. His profile highlights him as a Guard for San Diego State Aztecs but his size could be seen as one to offer a different defensive dimension by the coaches.
In the event that he is operated there, his introduction will offer the team balance but most importantly allow for more industry from Wainwright, who won’t have to worry much about defense. Deng Geu will also have massive help in the defensive department.
That in essence will grant more liberty to Kaluma and Zziwa to express themselves freely and perfectly in offense but with the bench players especially Jimmy Enabu, Eric Rwahwire, Tony Drilleba and Robinson Opongo also putting in a desirable shift.
As promised earlier, all players that were in Rabat will appear at the Afrobasket except Abdihakim Ghedi Mohamed, the core of internationally based players include: Arthur Kaluma, Keiran Zziwa, Deng Geu, Eric Rwahwire, Robinson Opongo, and most importantly Ishmail Wainright.
City Oilers skipper Jimmy Enabu leads the contingent of locally based players and amongst these include: The 35 year old Ben Komakech buzzing with a lot of experience, James Okello, Tony Drilleba and Titus Lual.
The flamboyant gesture by the Rwandan Basketball Association of cutting short the designated week quarantine period to just three days in order to allow the team time train despite our medieval approach to preparation from the top level is something we as a country should hold in high esteem.
What the opposition offers?
The Silverbacks will have to negotiate passage through Group D at the tournament in order to make the knockout rounds. Uganda is pitted against Senegal, Cameroon and South Sudan.
Senegal: A muscular and composed side with a lot of finesse than anyone could have fathomed. The Senegalese easily come off as the overwhelming favorites to win the group and our only chance against them therefore is to be assertive in offense and astute defensively.
Clevin Hannah is by all intents and purposes their most valuable player on the roster. The 33 year old Point-Guard plays his professional game with MoraBanc in Andorra and possesses great game intellect especially when it comes to decision making.
Youssou Ndoye (Orleans Loiret Basketball) and Ibrahima Faye (AS Monaco) are the other big sources of inspiration in the Cameroonian team featuring at Centre and Small-forward positions respectively. Ndoye is however at times operated as a Power-forward.
Cameroon: Another opponent with a lot of size, a bit limited in terms of the offensive game but with a lot of defensive effort. If we capitalize on their creation inadequacies and make our paint inaccessible, we might just about overwhelm them with our offense and athleticism.
Their strength in both departments of the game is manifested through the enigma that is Benoit Mbala, a Power-Forward who also doubles as a Centre in their setup. He plays his trade at CSP Limoges.
Jeremy Nzeulie (Shooting Guard) and Arnaud William Adala Moto (Small Forward) are the other integral parts to the team who play for Boulazac Basket Dordogne in Strasbourg, France and CB Clavijo La Rioja respectively.
South Sudan: A side vastly gifted with height but the same can’t be said about their offense. South Sudan are debutants at the tournament and just like Cameroon, their offense doesn’t have much to write home about but just like the Silverbacks, they are athletic thanks to their young team. Their average age is 24 years.
The talent to look out for on their roster is Nuni Omot, who is a Small-forward with German Bundesliga side Giessen 46ers. The 26 year old is the epitome of hardwork and will pose lots of challenges to our defense.
Nyang Wek, who is a Power-forward in their setup alongside Deng Acuoth, a Point-Guard are the others to think about on their starting five. The Silverbacks have to stop them from reaching the paint because the entire Sudanese side struggles with shooting the jumper.
Ultimately, the jury is out there for the Silverbacks to impress and aim to make it out of the group stages. We as a country should however be realistic in our expectations and not be oblivious to the fact there were clearly no preparations at all whatsoever.
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