02 September 2012

UGANDA : Zone Five Report: Empty seats leave empty feeling

Espoir’s players celebrate with their trophy after being crowned 2012 champions
Espoir’s players celebrate with their trophy after being crowned 2012 champions on August 26 at the Lugogo MTN Arena. The Rwandans annihilated 2011 champions Urunani of Burundi 90-39 in a one-sided final. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA
By ISMAIL DHAKABA KIGONGO (email the author)
In Summary
A week that promised so much for Ugandan basketball sides delivered nothing as none of the four teams reached the Fiba Africa Zone V Clubs Championship finals.
DMark Power and KCCA Leopards were the best performing local teams finishing third in the respective men’s and women’s tournaments. UCU Lady Canons came fourth whereas Warriors managed fifth. The comfort for the latter is that they won more games than any other Ugandan team. Here’s a review of the week-long event.
Power-less Ikong
League champions Power must have taken so many positives from the tournament especially after edging Kenya’s KCB Lions 66-65 to clinch third place. Joseph Ikong scored 16 points in a rather needless game.
Besides the injuries to Ben Komakech, Michael Kojo, Jimmy Enabu and Emmanuel Enabu, Ikong constituted coach Bernice Ankunda’s biggest problem. He just couldn’t lay-up, even when unchallenged. Also, the myths about their lethal transition game were dispelled as foreign teams found ways to beat it.
Power have opted for zonal defence and not the full court press. Emmanuel must shoot more and they still look idealess without Komakech. Colin Mukiza, one of the better perimeter shooters, must be regretting his decision to join from Miracle Eagles. His seat is quickly moving from the dugout to the stands due to lack of playing time.
Beyond Gombya
“I think we deserve more than we got,” Warriors’ coach Mandy Juruni insisted. They beat the defending champions Urunani 85-82 in overtime and only bowed out on points’ difference – the 72-56 loss to Rwanda’s Espoir in the opener proving decisive. This was always going to be a tough pool. With Espoir sweeping aside the Burundians 90-39 in the final, perhaps Juruni is right.
Not entirely. They fell way short of the minimum standards. Only guard Cyrus Kiviiri presented a real case for Warriors as contenders, three years after a commendable appearance in the Zone V finals.
That was manifested in his 25 points against Urunani. Norman Blick has become an enigma and centre Sam Gombya is good here though far from the finished product. Ivan Enabu is putting too much pressure on himself. Juruni’s rotation was found wanting and only winning the Airtel National Basketball League can heal this.
Impure UCU
UCU Lady Canons’ will go down as one written in the will she-won’t she play in regard to forward Purity Adhiambo. If the Kenyan had played, UCU would have challenged for the title. The eligibility issues surrounding Adhiambo and her former team APR left Peace Proscovia and Lorraine Akinyi so much to do on the inside.
The duo coped well, really well. The latter can even hold a clinic on post moves. However, the happiest part of their tournament is the glimpse into the form Maureen Amoding. She played like the MVP of 2010. Coach Boniface Okello has learnt so much in terms of what they can do if Adhiambo misses again.
Odeke’s conundrum
Two third place finishes in two Zone V editions is some kind of comfort for coach Timothy Odeke. They got their revenge against Burundi’s Berco Stars, the team that knocked them out in the semifinals one year ago.
Beating a weakened UCU 62-55 in the third place playoff gives hazy picture of where they are. Odeke can start by making his ‘big men’ finish better. On many occasions, Joyce Zalwango and Carol Badaru got so many clean looks but missing was a routine.
The guards looked very slow and barely contributed consistently. The problem went beyond the floor.
A player, preferring anonymity to speak freely, also told Sunday Monitor about the failure to pay allowances. These were only paid on Sunday, five games later.
Coaches’ need
Ankunda and Juruni are supposed to be the best two coaches here. They were no match for the region.
Basketball is a relatively new sport here. For example, Okello was not born when Eagle Wings’ Smarts Olumbo started coaching. Local coaches need a lot of training and exposure to measure up at this level as the failure has become a little too predictable.
Anti-climatic finals
The final scoreboard for the finals read: Espoir 90-39 Urunani and KPA 54-77 Eagle Wings.
Being foreign teams, a close game would have helped for many neutrals. Ex-Falcons players Kami Kabange scored 17 points and 11 rebounds and Bienvenu Ngandu had 13 points and 17 rebounds to pound Urunani.
The pair have tremendously improved since their time here. Kabange and Ngandu were earlier part of Rwanda’s team at the Afrobasket and All Africa Games over the past 12 months. Aristide Mugabe, also a member of that team, upstaged them – fittingly winning the coveted Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Espoir, who have now qualified for the Afrobasket, out-rebounded the smaller Burundians 55-27 in an anti-climatic final.
In the women’s event, Kenya Ports Authority’s (KPA) Hilda Hindasi got the top scorer’s and MVP plagues despite her team losing their title. They were pummeled. Shani Agaro jumped from a wedding gown last Saturday to score 11 points and 10 rebounds in the final off the bench for Wings.
What else?
Throughout the tournament, the Lugogo MTN Arena didn’t attract the crowds which have become synonymous with basketball in recent years. The uncertainty surrounding the venue didn’t help much and neither did the Shs10, 000 entrance fee. A fan needed Shs60, 000 to catch the six days at Lugogo!
Djibouti, Somalia and Egypt, all members of Zone V, unsurprisingly skipped. Also, the controversy over the hoops damaging the floor is a big fat lie. The floor is fine and better than the first one unveiled back in 2010 following a one-year renovation. One of the hoops needed welding minutes before tip-off. Umeme returned to their old fading tricks.
Electricity went off twice, the second blackout leading to a two-hour delay during the semifinals.
At the end of the competition, it felt good seeing basketball at Lugogo for the first time since 2010. Will the league be played there? No quick or obvious answers.

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