08 November 2012

UGANDA : Okwako relishing Warriors ‘reunion’

Okwako (left) plays defence against Power’s Paul Mwaka at Lugogo last week. UCU meet Warriors in Game One of the semifinals on Friday.
Okwako (left) plays defence against Power’s Paul Mwaka at Lugogo last week. UCU meet Warriors in Game One of the semifinals on Friday. Photo by Ismail Kezaala
By Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo

Posted Wednesday, November 7 2012 at 02:00
In Summary
Last year, UCU Canons went into the semifinal series with nine players. Then, Robert Ogweno got injured in Game Two and they finished the series with eight players, losing 3-2 to Warriors.

The wagon that brought Warriors their only Fuba League title three years ago found a big asset in forward Martin Okwako, then playing his first season here.
He made as big a contribution as Abdullahi Ramadhan (now Falcons) and Ronnie Kasewu as Warriors recorded a 4-1 series victory over then-defending champions DMark Power in the final. Kaswewu was voted the most valuable player.
Okwako swapped jerseys at the start of last season to join UCU Canons. The roles have since switched – the Kenyan must now prevent Warriors from winning a second title – starting this Friday at YMCA court.
The two clash in the best-of-five semifinal series for a third successive season. Warriors have triumphed 3-2 in the two previous meetings and Okwako, scorer of 12 points and 11 rebounds in the 73-69 quarterfinal decisive win against Power on Sunday, wants to end the skid.
“90% of them (Warriors) are my good friends but sports and life is a challenge I am ready to take,” Okwako said. “95% of the people didn’t believe in us and Power took us for granted but we stepped up.”
“We deserve to be here. Some people think us qualifying has made it easy for Warriors.
They will be surprised. We respect them.” It’s been a tough season which Okwako has called a “total revolution.”
Besides losing Geoffrey Omondi (Falcons) and Jachin Wettstone (US), UCU added six players to their roster. Okwako has had to make endless trips to Kenya as his mother has been in out of hospital battling cancer.
“She has improved a lot and always calls to ask if we won,” Okwako noted. Though his coach Nichloas Natuhereza believes the team that lost 2-1 to Falcons in the 2007 semis is the best UCU have assembled, Okwako is banking on this one to deliver a maiden final appearance.
“Our biggest strength now is self belief. We are better than last year,” Okwako said. The opposition concurs. “I think they are a better team now. Their numbers are bigger too,” Warriors coach Mandy Juruni said.

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