13 January 2016

UGANDA - Basketball flows in the Enabus’ veins

The Enabu dynasty: Emma, Ivan and Jimmy Enabu pose for a photo before heading to Rwanda for the 2011 Zone V Championships. Photos by Swaib Raul Kanyike 

Posted  Monday, January 11   2016 at  10:28
In Summary
Mention the name Enabu and anyone around you will switch their mind to the basketball players; Maurice, Dennis, Mark, Ivan, Evelyn, Jimmy and Emma. The Enabus have dominated the basketball court for more than a decade so much so that they have become a household name.
In the 1990s, the Malinga brothers (Henry and Eric) and the Blicks (Norman and Donald) were the flagship siblings of basketball.
They achieved a lot and set the ball rolling for another set of siblings, the Enabus, who have since made the basketball court their own.
The Enabus (six brothers and a sister) share nine national basketball championships amongst them.
Face-to-face with the ball
Maurice Enabu, the eldest, introduced the game to his younger siblings. At Kabojja Secondary School, he learnt the art of playing basketball and slowly imparted it to the rest.
Dennis followed suit and before long, Mark joined. However, Maurice and Dennis soon left for Canada. Mark was now an upcoming star. He put in a lot of hard work and joined local basketball giants, DMark Power.
At Power, he kept working hard and became the first in the family to win the national basketball league championship in 2008. That became the catalyst for more hard work from the other youngsters.
Behind Mark, Ivan was in quick pursuit at Entebbe-based Knight Riders, which he led to promotion. In the top flight, a young Ivan mesmerised both players and fans with his mazy dribbles and mature ball-handling skills.
The stage was now set for greatness, many predicted. Before long, UCU Canons snapped him on a study scholarship.
After leading Uganda to the 2005 Zone V Championships and being named MVP, Ivan was lured to the Mukono-based institution in 2006 and started playing for their senior team a year later.
Jimmy made his league debut in 2007 with Knight Riders. Emma joined him later. Their time to shine came after Knight Riders’ relegation. They became its stars and led it back to the top division before moving on; Jimmy joined Ivan at UCU while Emma crossed to Power.
“Yes, we learnt from our older brothers but basically, Knight Riders gave us the perfect start. Being young boys from Entebbe, we found it easy to train there and showcase our talent. It was in our neighbourhood and it made everything easy,” remarks Jimmy, the most decorated of all, with four league championships.
However, things did not go well for Ivan and Jimmy at UCU. There is no doubt they turned the university side into one of the biggest teams in the men’s elite league, but they failed to lead it past the semi-final hurdle on three occasions. They thus left in 2011. Ivan joined Warriors while Jimmy joined Power.
“For me, it was basically about moving on. I had given UCU my all and besides, I had achieved my main dream with them - graduating with a Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) degree. So I needed to look for more challenges on the court and also grow into my professional career,” says Ivan.
Whereas Ivan and Jimmy were looking for their first championship, their younger brother, Emma, had already won one with Power in 2010.
Their sister, Evelyn, had also won the women’s league with UCU Lady Canons in 2008.
When Ivan and Jimmy left UCU for Warriors and Power, respectively, they were searching for their first league silverware. At Power, Jimmy teamed with Emma to devastating effect.
They became every basketball fan’s joy to watch. Their speed at shooting guard and point guard, respectively, left opponents quaking and made the fans cheer thunderously. That year (2011), the duo helped Power to defend its trophy.
It was Jimmy’s first but Emma’s second. Ironically, they faced Ivan’s Warriors in the finals. The press hyped it as a battle of the Enabu brothers.
“It had never happened before for us to meet in such a high profile match. In fact, it was a whole series and it all felt crazy. Ivan and I were searching for our first championship while Emma was looking for his second and each of us was braced for it, like all our lives depended on it. It put us all in a tight corner. Just imagine plotting against your brother,” said Jimmy.
December 18, 2011 was D-Day. After six energy-sapping encounters of the best-of-seven finals series, the three brothers faced off in the winner-takes-it-all game at YMCA, Wandegeya. Power won 99-97 to stretch Ivan’s long wait for a championship.
“It is very painful. I can’t find the right words to tell you how I am feeling this night. Extremely painful,” he told this reporter, then. His sacrifice to play through groin and ankle injuries had produced no fruits. His eyes were teary and when his brothers came to hug him, he looked the odd man out.
“Last week, however, I reminded him of that night. In his trademark soft voice way, he said: “It was crazy but in the end I was happy for them. They had worked hard for it and hard work pays, that is a fact. It (losing to them) also gave me courage to work hard and I ended up landing my hands on the trophy in 2012.”
End of the pain
Arguably the best point guard of his generation, Ivan will never forget the 2012 season when his Warriors beat Falcons in the finals. Finally, after many years of trying, he was a champion.
“Yes, finally I have got it and now I also have a voice in the house,” he said, with a wide smile.
Ivan’s championship brought the Enabus’ total collection to five. However, some critics have argued that ever since he got what he wanted (the championship) his game has slowed down.
“They have every right to judge. Currently, career comes first and ‘ball comes second. So there’s no way one should expect me to keep playing like a teenager,” adds Ivan, who currently works as a Franchise Manager at Jibu Mineral Water.
Evelyn Enabu won the women’s league with UCU Lady Canons in 2008. Courtesy photo
At the start of the 2013 season, Jimmy ditched Power for newcomers City Oilers and led it to glory in its maiden year. In winning the trophy, Oilers had set a record of being the first team to win the league during its first year in the top flight. He then guided them to its defence in 2014 for his third medal and also got named the league MVP.
“The hunger to win still remains the same. When we won the first (with Oilers in 2013), I realised that if we put in lots of effort and keep working hard, the sky would be the limit for this team,” says Jimmy, the team captain. Oilers became the second team after Falcons (2002, 2003, 2004) to win the title three times in a row.
“Now I can look back and say ‘I am getting there’” Jimmy says, with a smile.
National team exploits
Every sportsman dreams of playing for their national teams. Ivan led the Silverbacks (men’s national team) to the 2005 Zone V Championships. But it is Jimmy who has played at the highest level, representing Uganda in the AfroBasket Championships in Tunisia in August 2015.
“It felt good and I learnt a lot. Playing at continental level was a dream come true. The intensity was overwhelming. Maybe I can get another chance and play at the same tournament again in future. I will also work for it,” he adds.

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