23 December 2012

Uganda: 2012 Was an Average Year for Local Basketball

FUBA's 2012 closing ceremony proved the local basketball governing body does not either understand or agree with the notion that all is well that ends well.

Given the choice to bring the campaign to a glamorous end, as has been the case since 2008 with the season-crowning FUBA Awards Dinner, the top officials at the basketball body instead decided to take the money they raised through the season, and particularly the playoffs, to clear debts.

As FUBA vice president media and publicity Ali Balunywa put it: "We had a choice to either take sh30m and pay our debts so that we enter next season with clear books or spend it all on a plate of food."

Obviously, the heads at FUBA don't really appreciate how important the awards dinner has become to the players, just how much they look forward to it. A Plate of food? You've gotta be kidding! FUBA have to pay their debts, which somehow never seem to run out, but to degrade the awards just to justify the decision to scrap them is reckless.

FUBA president Ambrose Tashobya may come to regret this decision if it turns out to be the beginning of the end for a tradition that was going from strength to strength.

Hits and misses

FUBA's management record under Tashobya remains a mix of more hits than misses but as the decision with the awards shows, the misses have been quite embarrassing. This season, the quality of facilities, refereeing, enforcement of disciplinary standards all continued to leave something to be desired.

It's incredible that local league basketball still doesn't have two perfectly equal hoops at any of its courts. It is scandalous. The new pair of Lugogo-bound hoops that were supposed to arrive in September are, depending on who is telling the story, still stuck somewhere in Europe, Kenya or Nakawa.

FUBA's financial issues are understandable but some problems are just out-dated now.

Leopards claw back

Not that the Kyambogo Warriors, KCCA Leopards, City Oilers, Charging Rhinos, Ssaku and UMU Flames will remember 2012 for FUBA's administrative failures.

The Warriors overcame the pain of losing the last two men's top division finals series to win the national championship after defeating the Falcons 4-2 in the best-of-seven series.

They played the better basketball in the finals, sharing the ball more to turn a 2-1 series deficit into their second championship. Norman Blick deservedly won the Finals MVP award after topping the scorers' charts in the series.

KCCA's triumph was even more impressive. Trailing 2-0 to the UCU Lady Canons at the beginning of the women's finals series, the Leopards rallied behind the determination of Martha Soigi and genius of Flavia Oketcho to win the series 4-3, to bag their third title.

The death of Purity Odhiambo's mum ahead of Game 5 cost the Lady Canons their best player but KCCA are deserving champions having been good value throughout the series.

Oketcho won the women's Finals MVP award although Soigi would have been just as deserving. Judith Nansobya and Geoffrey Soro both surprisingly won the women's and men's top division regular-season MVP awards respectively.

Beware of City Oil in top flight

Money-bags Oilers and Rhinos gained promotion to the men's first division, replacing demoted Rez Life and Giant Stormers. Everyone expects the Oilers to become a huge factor in local basketball in the next few seasons given the amount of money at their disposal and the club which was founded in 2011 are targeting the 2014 national championship.

Ssaku and UMU Flames qualified to the second division, replacing relegated MBC Rocks and Kings.

D'Mark Power and KCCA finished third in the men's and women's FIBA Africa Zone five club championships, held in Kampala in August, another reminder that we still have work to do to become the region's best.

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