13 February 2011

UGANDA : Lack of exposure leaves Uganda reeling in pain

Team Uganda’s results
Uganda 87-48 Tanzania
Burundi 72-70 Uganda
Uganda 76-89 Rwanda
Uganda 61-76 Kenya

One of Team Uganda’s biggest fears prior to the Fiba Africa Zone V Nations Championship in Kigali over the past seven days, was size. With Henry Malinga, Uganda’s most experienced centre player skipping the showpiece through injury, there were fears that the men’s team would find difficulty in the paint against much bigger opponents.

Sunday Monitor’s Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo covered the tournament and found out that size was not Uganda’s undoing at all. Players and coaches take a share of carrot and stick as the team recorded only one win in four games. Below, Kigongo dishes out marks to all the team members.

Norman Blick (6/10)
He can be loved and loathed in equal measure in just one transition due to inconsistency. It was tough to explain why Norman Blick failed to trouble the scoreboard against Kenya and then exploded with 30 points in the 76-89 loss to hosts Rwanda. Playing with a wound on one of his knees, Blick ran the wings impressively and instigated good fast breaks whenever he picked a rebound. However, whenever the lane was shut down, Blick struggled to score and turned the ball on more occasions than any other player.

Jimmy Enabu (2/10) and Boniface Okello (3/10)
The duo of Jimmy Enabu and Boniface Okello hardly lasted on the floor. The latter brought intensity in defence in spite of not offering much in offense. Jimmy must have been on the team as part of his learning process. Even for the few minutes he got, Jimmy was timid and missed too many shots that he would ordinarily convert against any team here. Sitting on the bench too long rendered him cold.

Isaac Afidra (4/10)
When will the real Isaac Afidra, who was the league’s top scorer two years ago, return? Afidra failed to convert so many of his shots from downtown and ended up with only two figures above 10 points in two games. Even the astute defensive play for which is known was missing. It’s surprising that this is the first time Afidra played for the national team because private engagements have always kept him away. He owes this team from now.

Ben Komakech (6/10)
Aristide Mugabe, a point guard with the Rwandan national team, didn’t like what he saw in Ben Komakech in the 61-75 defeat to Kenya. Mugabe was right though he stretched it too far in saying that the play-offs MVP is poor at managing the ball. Appointed assistant captain, Komakech is supposed to act as a bridge between the present and the future.
This wasn’t one of those dominant weeks for the two-time MVP but he did his job gracefully though. Just like the entire team, he struggled to drive the ball into the heart of the opposition’s defensive wall.

Eric Malinga (4/10)
Hats off for you Eric Malinga. He decided to endure 13 hours of travel for the event just after his mother was laid to rest. Only joined the team in time for the second game against Burundi but was ready to play. When asked about his physical shape, he responded: “there is not time to feel tired.” The exhaustion told as he only came to life in scoring 13 points and eight rebounds in the final game against Tanzania. He actually endured a headache and fever to play for his country.

Edwin Kateregga (6/10)
Perhaps, the next big thing for Ugandan basketball will be found in Edwin Kateregga. Faced with experienced Kenyan centre Peter Kiganya, Kateregga’s attitude showed in standing straight up and not folding. He won the trust of coach Gad Eteu and in the process started each and every game. Despite being a rookie, only Stephen Omony and Norman Blick played more minutes. The next step for Kateregga will be the most important.

Ivan Enabu (2/10)
Renowned for dazzling opponents in the local league, Ivan Enabu barely showed up. It took him three games to dribble past an opponent. There was every reason to think that the technical team requested the 2005 Zone V MVP to play for the team which curtailed him though management denies such a thing happened. But every good team is built on individuals using their natural abilities.

Stephen Omony (7/10)
For over a decade now, Stephen Omony remains the country’s most reliable source of not only points but inspiration.
When everyone folded, Omony stood tall to threaten the Kenyans with 29 points. His appointment as captain is not debatable. Even when Omony had a bad shooting game like against Rwanda, he still managed 13 points. If consistency had a synonym, it would Omony. You cannot stop imagining what would have happened if only Komakech, Joseph Ikong and Blick had shared only 20 points against Kenya.

Joseph Ikong (3/10)
Being the national league top scorer, Joseph Ikong was widely expected to dominate the statistics sheets. Spending most of his time on the bench hindered his contribution but there is no place to hide for scoring only 11 points in four games. At some point, he looked to be suffering from stage fright. Ikong looked good in the transitions and even made two dunks for his first points in the tournament. However, the guard’s shooting is still as suspect as ever.

Robert Mubiru (5/10) and Brian Ssentogo (6/10)
Despite both being enigmatic ball handlers, Robert Mubiru and Brian Ssentogo are every bit developing quite nicely into their roles as big men. The centres showed immense aggression in defence but lacked the bite to contribute offensively when the team desperately needed them. Mubiru and Ssentogo also missed several free throws that could have made some of the losing margins smaller. Their biggest undoing was getting too excited in key moments.

Coaches (5/10)
The old adage goes; players win games while coaches lose them. This episode left men’s coaches Eteu and Timothy Odeke with no place to hide at all especially as the team squandered a 30-point lead to lose 72-70 to Burundi. For this game, the rotation of players was wanting when Uganda established a huge lead. The crux upon which the lead was built stayed on the court too long without being given a breather and ran out of lungs for the final kick. In a tournament where coaches select 12 players, they all ought to get the benefit of the doubt. Uganda relied on quick transition basketball thanks to six of the players featuring for national basketball league champions DMark Power.

On most occasions, the coaches lacked a plan B when the opposition opted for a zonal defence. Similarly, throughout the four games, the coaches found it hard to give everyone a chance. It almost emerged that there was a chosen group of eight to carry Uganda’s cross.

It was too heavy at times and they needed support. Nonetheless, before there is mad rush to apportion blame, it’s also imperative to understand that the coaches were only given a few weeks to do their work. In a country with limited facilities and even less coaches, players often find themselves not learning so much about the game beyond dribbling. Physicality, shooting and the game reading of individual players remain the biggest Achilles heel.

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