17 September 2014

UGANDA : Uganda Set for Zone V

It has taken Uganda six months to prepare for the Zone V basketball championship and as it draws closer to kick-off from September 21-28 at Lugogo arena, the mood in both the men and ladies' camps is sky-high, writes Felix Eupal.
The road to the biennial tournament can best be described as bumpy. But, nothing could stand in the way of the National Teams Steering Committee (NTSC) and its unquenchable thirst to host the 2014 edition in Kampala. Preparations suffered a setback in June when Egypt and Rwanda pulled out, citing their own tight schedules.
The eventual postponement caused a huge financial loss on behalf of the NTSC but such was their relentlessness that it pulled all stops to ensure no excuses from the visiting teams. Buoyed up by a $50,000 sponsorship package from tyre makers Ling Long and City Tyres, nothing could stop the tournament from taking place.
Other partners include Coca-Cola, Hotel Africana, Castle Lite and Club Ambiance. Indeed, local basketball body Fuba yesterday announced the final squads for the tournament amid fanfare at Hotel Africana. The men's team, popularly known as Silverbacks, goes into the tournament with a heavy burden of making an impression having trained for the past one week.
The squad has a number of surprises such as City Oilers' Samuel Kalwanyi and Andrew Opio. The pair have been in good form this season and put up tremendous performances during the Zone V Club Championship in Mombasa, where Oilers finished third. Among the surprise omissions are Falcons Cyrus Kiviri and Ndejje Angels' Jonah Otim, who have been put on the reserve list.
However, all eyes will be on Uganda's foreign-based players that include Josh Johnson, John Balwigaire, Kassim Nangwere and Samuel Mukooza. US-based forward Sharon Karungi will be the centre of attention for the Gazelles, which is the national ladies team. Meanwhile, the Gazelles have few omissions, save for Maureen Amoding and Judith Nansobya, who skipped the tournament to take part in the 3/3 basketball challenge in Brazil.
Only once has Uganda won the tournament and that was back in 2005 when it was hosted in Kampala. This time round, the tournament is unique because the finalists in both categories will get a chance to qualify for the Afro Basketball Championship next year. The same finalists will also make it to the 2015 All Africa Games 2015 in Brazzaville.
Fiba Zone V is made of 11 countries: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eriteria, Djibouti and Egypt. So far, South Sudan has pulled out of the tournament due to unclear circumstances; the other countries save for Tanzania, Eritrea and Djibouti have confirmed participation.

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