Friday, November 26
*Mali Vs Uganda – 10pm
Uganda face Mali in their Group A opening game at the first window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers in Benguela, Angola.
This will be the first competition the Silverbacks will be taking part in since their sixth place finish at the 2021 FIBA Afrobasket in Kigali in September.
As it was prior to the Afrobasket, Uganda’s preparations to these Qualifiers have been ugly to say the least.
Few days ago, FUBA issued a press release confirming the Silverbacks’ withdrawal from the first window citing failure to secure funds for the Benguela trip.
It required a late Government intervention to see that the team flies out in the wee hours of Thursday (3:00am).
Fast forward, the Silverbacks contingent arrived in Benguela early Friday morning and are set to have a single training session few hours to tip off the Mali game.
By press time, the foreign-based players had not arrived but there are higher chances that they will make it before the game.
Amidst all these challenges, Uganda is hopeful, buoyant and willing to throw everything they have at these Qualifiers.
Can Silverbacks Overcome Mali?
Uganda takes a squad that looks weaker on paper compared to the one that featured at the 2021 Afrobasket.
There is no Phoenix Suns new acquisition Ishmail Wainright, Arthur Kaluma and Adam Seiko while Deng Geu will also not make the trip.
The likes of Ivan Muhwezi, Fayed Bbale and Peter Peter Obleng will be seeking to get their debuts with the team.
Brandon Davies (Barcelona, Spain) and Robinson Odoch Opong will be the team’s spine at the games alongside captain Jimmy Enabu.
Emmanuel Timothy Womala, a 6″5 guard based in Germany, received his first call up.
He features for EN Baskets Schwelm Basketball Club in the Pro B of Germany.
National team manager Albert Ahabwe described him: “He’s an athletic aggressive guard with a reputation of a really good defender and scorer. He was born in Mbale, Eastern Uganda, 21 years ago. He’s a product of the Bayern Munich Academy Youth system.”
Only Enabu, Opong and James Okello were part of the Uganda squad that faced Mali on February 24 2018 in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers.
Uganda then lost 79-76 in Bamako and were also beaten 95-80 by Mali in Lagos later that year in June.
Mali are ranked 9th in Africa, while Uganda sit 13th. But Mali looked a shadow of themselves at the 2021 Afrobasket in Kigali where they finished 15th out of the 16 teams. They lost all their three Group C games against Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Kenya.
Coached by Boubacar Kanoute, Mali will be fancying their chances against a fast rising Uganda side coached by Mandy Juruni.
Uganda’s Probable Starting Five – Jimmy Enabu, Tonny Drilleba, Robinson Opong, James Okello, Brandon Davies
How To Watch – Match may be broadcast live on Sports Life (StarTimes) and you can stream on subscription-only LIVE Basketball TV.
Uganda is Grouped in Pool A alongside Mali, Nigeria and Cape Verde.
The Silverbacks will face the other three Group A opponents twice.
They face Mali on Friday before Cape Verde and Nigeria on Saturday and Sunday in that order.
Then the teams will meet again next year in June 2022 to face off again at a yet to be determined venue.
The top three teams from each of the four groups, including that of Uganda’s Group A will advance to the Second Round of the African Qualifiers.
There, the group’s three advancing teams will join three other teams to create two six-team groups. All teams will carry over their results from the First Round.
In the Second Round, each team will play each new team in their group during two tournaments played over two event windows schedule in August 2022 and February 2023.
At the end of these additional six games per team, the two top teams in each group, along with the best third-placed team, will qualify to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
It should be noted that if Uganda makes it out of Group A, it will be joined by other two of the top Group A teams and three top teams in Group C that has Ivory Coast, Guinea, Angola and Central Africa Republic to form Group E of the second round. There, the top two teams automatically qualify for the 2023 World Cup that will be hosted by Indonesia, Japan and Philippines.
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