26 May 2014

UGANDA : Work Cut Out for Silverbacks

In three weeks' time, the Uganda national basketball team, the Silverbacks, will represent the country in the Zone V qualifiers here in Kampala.
However, after their 54-64 loss to City Oilers in a friendly match, they need a great deal of improvement; yet time is running out, writes Felix Eupal.
Poor preparations and lack of funds have been chronic issues for the Silverbacks for a long time. However, that was solved with the creation of a national team steering committee early this year.
The committee got to work in style by arranging a one-off Enoch Cup between the Silverbacks and City Oil. With a trophy on hand and Shs 2m up for grabs for the winner, this was meant to bring the best of the national team ahead of more difficult tasks against the region's top teams.
In the end, however, the Silverbacks flattered to deceive. This poses several questions and doubts whether Uganda would lift Zone V qualifiers for the first time since 2005. Uganda needs at least to reach the finals in both the men's and ladies' categories to qualify for the basketball Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted in Egypt next year.
Mandy Juruni, the national coach, knows the picture is not rosy. The offence was blunt, ball rotation lacking, and most of all, the team had no rhythm. They converted only three of 19 shots out of the arc as the Oilers dominated the rebounds 46 to 33. Juruni admits it will be hard to get rhythm before he trims down the team to 12 players.
With more than 20 players in camp, this has bred anxiety and discontent as players remain unsure of their status. "They don't have enough trust in us and we probably won't make the team but we just give our all," says Geoffrey Soro.
The Ndejje forward was not included on the initial team but was later summoned to take part in training. Another inclusion that surprised many is that of Norman Blick, despite being dropped for missing training. According to Juruni, Blick's fate lies in the hands of the disciplinary committee but: "I definitely believe he will make my final 12."
So with Blick back into the team, will we see Isaac Afidra, Ivan Enabu, and Ronnie Kasewu who were dropped also doing the same? Juruni remains cagey on that. As such, the scramble for places is tight and with four foreign-based players expected to fly in this week, it leaves eight slots for the locals.
Matters weren't helped when Juruni and his team missed training on Saturday because the Lugogo arena wasn't available. The Silverbacks have two training sessions this week starting Tuesday before Juruni will select his final squad.

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