20 January 2013

UGANDA : Optimism creeps in ahead of Zone V

Unpalatable history notwithstanding, there is a real mood of optimism with the two national teams – men and women – ahead of the Fiba Africa Zone V Championship. The first batch, constituting 10 of the 35-man contingent, leaves today for the regional tournament that starts tomorrow in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The rest fly out tomorrow.
“Our confidence is exactly at the level where we want it,” men’s captain Stephen Omony said. “The technical help we have got from (US coach) Paul (Johnson) has really helped.”
Since arriving last Friday prior to the final warm up game, Johnson has conducted drills for the two teams whose emphasis is individual and collective defence.
“We have improved in the past one year. For the new players, the lessons will come handy but I think they will do well,” women’s skipper Vicky Nassolo noted. The two were captains at last year’s edition in Kigali, Rwanda. Back then, the men won only once in what was a five-team tournament. The women, then coached by Mandy Juruni, who is now in charge of the men, did slightly better with two victories to finish fourth.
Ups and downs have characterised the past two weeks of practice with withdrawals leaving both sets of coaches with limited options. The biggest of them being guard Ivan Enabu.
However, both Juruni and his women’s equivalent Timothy Odeke are confident they chose the best set available. “I don’t think we could handle better players than these,” Odeke said at the Thursday flag-off.
Judgement will only be seen at the coast as the men seek to add to their
2005 title here and the women hoping to become a force in the region.
“The game here is experiencing growth,” Omony added. The return of Egypt has raised the bar for Uganda and the other participants – Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Somalia and the hosts Tanzania.
Besides Somalia which is only fielding a men’s team, the others have teams in both categories with only winners qualifying for the continental championship.
Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sudan had not yet confirmed their participation by press time.

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