The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Basketball - Who Makes Final Cut?

Team Uganda had its last official warm-up match on Friday at the Lugogo indoor arena, with the men's team winning 78-47 as it prepares for the Zone V Basketball championships in Tanzania.

The women's team too had a comfortable 62-41 win; and below, Felix Eupal looks at how the two teams have progressed.

It was a breather from last Tuesday's outings. The men's team showed better ball movement. Their transition was good and the offence much better. Perhaps what lacked was the defence; often, they were caught flat-footed. Yet overall, this was a better script compared to the poor showing of the previous outing. They cleaned up the boards with 26 rebounds, 26 assists, three turnovers and ten steals.

But the shooting was still terrible - the team could only convert nine times out of the 23 options on the charity line. They were also five for nine outside the ark.

"There is still a lot to work on," head coach Mandy Juruni acknowledged.

Assistant coach Gad Eteu was happy, though. He told The Observer that they would be selecting the final 12 players after the last training on Thursday. "Right now, we are just happy with the result," he said.

Currently, the team has 14 players and two have to be dropped. From the look of things, Moses Olobo from KIU Titans and Ivan Lumanyika from Miracle Eagles would be axed.

With Juruni's transition team, the pair don't fit the profile. Lumanyika possesses the size and has the strength in the paint but he can't offer anything on the offence while Olobo, well, he is just Olobo. You never know what to expect from him. One time he is on fire then the next he is a turnover machine.

On the other hand, Geoffrey Soro, who was on the reserve team and walked off with eight points, looks set to have his name first on the team list. In the first game, he walked off with a game high 20 points and on Friday he brought the intangibles to the table - doing the dirty work in the paint and still being a menace on the offence. Even the American coach Paul Johnson flown in by Athletes in Action (a sports organization aimed at developing basketball) was happy.

"They play a good game and run the ball first and I am going to take more note of them," Johnson said. He particularly singled out Ben Komakech, Stephen Omony and Norman Blick.

Johnson is here to help Team Uganda achieve their target of winning another Zone V championship since 2005. On the women's side, it is still the same script. Their opposition poses no challenges. This is sad because the opposition at the tournament will be different and Uganda has always struggled against Kenya - it will still be the hardest hurdle to jump.

Ladies coach Timothy Odeke knows that while the players move the ball around well, "we still need to work on our defence."

Both teams set off on January 19 for the tournament that starts two days later.

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