15 November 2013

UGANDA : Exiting Kami wants to leave Oilers on top

Kami Kabangu stretches to sink in a lay-up against DMark Power in the regular
Kami Kabangu stretches to sink in a lay-up against DMark Power in the regular season.To stand a chance in the semifinal series against Power, City Oilers will need Kabangu at his sharpest. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 
By Andrew Mwanguhya
Kampala- Calm, disciplined, measured and respectful is the lexis that comes to mind when Kami Kabangu, the City Oilers centre, is mentioned.
On and off court, he oozes class. Falcons coach Gad Eteu was the Warriors tactician when Kami first came to Uganda to join Falcons in 2009. “He is a great person,” says Eteu, also coach of Kami’s cousin Serge Kabangu, “I personally wanted to have him at Falcons before he joined City Oil.
He is a very disciplined and principled guy. I have great admiration for him.” Even as I meet him at City Oilers, Nakawa for this interview – you see humble, nay neat masculinity carried in khaki shorts and black t-shirt.
His discipline, he says, has seen him move from a part time player while at Falcons to a real big time actor at City Oilers. “Yes I notice that (the improvement). I think it is because of the determination and the practice.”
Rwanda-Congo connection
But he was a man on a mission. “I was gunning to play for the national team of Rwanda,” he adds, “And I was going to face some big teams out there. So I was forced to work very, very hard.” Kami and Serge’s Congolese mothers are sisters but the former’s dad is Rwandan and the latter’s Congolese.
They chose to represent Rwanda rather than DRC after they were spotted by a one Cliff, then APR coach when they were playing for Lubumbashi Sport.
“Coach Cliff saw me and Serge and he took us to APR,” says Kami, “Our parents are still in Congo but we play for Rwanda national team.”
After spending two league winning years with APR, Kami was snapped up by Uganda’s Falcons in 2009, spending there a season before returning to APR for two more trophy-laden years, then Espoire, and back to Uganda to join Oilers this year.
“Then (2009) then competition was very high. Also, Uganda had good players. But I think now, this season, is the biggest I have ever seen in Uganda in terms of challenge. Everyone is up for it and quality of game is also good.”
His own game has also improved to the point that it cannot escape the eyes of opponents. “He is a fine basketballer,” intimates Eteu, whose Falcons he could face in the final should Oilers go past Power and Falcons past champions Riham Warriors.
“Fine basketballer in pure sense of the word,” adds Eteu, “... Of his positional sense… I would put him alongside Henry Malinga.”

Incidentally, Kami rates the Warriors’ centre as the best on the post in Uganda, and that he is the toughest big man he has ever faced.
“I respect him (Henry) so much because I think he is the best big man in Uganda right now.”

Jump shot mastery
City Oilers have been the beneficiaries of the calm, leadership, discipline and general positional sense of the 29-year-old. No wonder the team that had sporadic promotions from the lower leagues is upon us and Power in the semifinals in their very first topflight season.
Among Kami and Oilers’ weapons in this memorable run has been the centre’s clean jump shot, so clean at times it is spotless. But just how does he perfect this art?
“You know shooting is not easy,” he explains, “Because you are shooting from far. So you need to work very, very hard on it.I have sometimes had to try 200 to 300 shots each day in my private practice. With more practice comes confidence. When you practice well, you feel confident even when you are in the game.”
And Kami knows a thing or two of what they must do to prevail in the five-game series against five-time champions Power. Game One was played last night at YMCA.
“For Power, personally I think they are most dangerous with their guards. Their guards are very, very strong. “And I think if you want to beat Power or to have a good game against Power, you should stop their guards.”

Ben Komakech and Joseph Ikong quickly come to mind.
Morocco & title
“Yes those and a few others. We have to stop them by playing good defence.” Isaac Afidra, the Power forward, once told us ahead of their regular season game against UCU that they normally take what the opponents’ defence gives them.
Sure it should be the same approach against City Oilers. “But they are not going to know what kind of defence we are going to play on them before the game starts,” says Kami, “So they can’t know.”

But what Kami cannot contest is that Oilers will need more than just himself, Jimmy Enabu and Arou Ramadhan if they are to beat the vastly experienced Power.
“I think the best thing we shall do to beat Power is teamwork. We shall need everyone to play their best game.
“It’s not going to be easy. I cannot say we are going to beat Power three (straight). Power is more experienced than us in playoffs. Like I said we are going to take each game at a time.” Kami, who agreed to join Moroccan College side Mira Costa (topflight) after passing trials recently, wants to give his best for Oilers in these playoffs so as to leave them at the best possible placing.
“It’s (going pro) a big challenge, another big challenge in my life. I think I need to be more focused, work on my game… I think I’m not good enough (thus far) and I can improve. “Now we (Oilers) expect is to go all the way to the final and I want to help the team. Then from there we can see because we are going to take one game at a time and the future will tell.”
Former clubs
2012: Espoire (Rwanda)
2010–2011: APR (Rwanda)
2009: Falcons
2004–06: Lubumbashi Sport (DRC)
Current club: City Oil
Next destination: Joining Mira Costa (Morocco) after this year’s playoffs
2012: Zone V with Espoire
2012: Espoire (league)
2010–2011: APR (2 league titles)
2007-08: APR (2 league titles)
2006: Lubumbashi Sport (league)
Career high points
42 in the league while with APR

Kami's take
On choosing City Oil: “They approached me and I liked their plan.”
Pressure of being the best: “You know it’s very difficult to be that kind of player. “Sometimes when I’m on (my) bed I say… I ask myself ‘why did I not do this thing well.”
On coach Mandy Juruni: “He is one of the best coaches in Uganda right now.”
Lessons from Africa Basketball Championship: “The experience from the games helped me a lot because you are competing with many good players from Europe in teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid… from France, the US.”
Closest basketball friend in Uganda:
Eddy (Oumo)
Best teammate:
Jimmy Enabu and Arou Ramadhan. “There is some connection when we are playing.”
What keeps him going: “Focus, drinking a lot of water, making jokes and relaxing before games. “When I’m in a good mood, things just happen.”
Was in third year pursuing BA in Pharmacy in Congo. Says he plans to complete his two years after pro basketball.

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