The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Basketball - End of the Road

The men's national basketball team couldn't make it out of the group stages for the third consecutive time in a row at the Zone V Championship.

They lost two games to Rwanda and Egypt respectively, managing only one and repeating last year's script. Felix Eupal looks at what went wrong and if the team could muster its winning ways as it did seven years ago.

A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same. But this is not how we expected the men's national basketball team fortunes to pan out at the ongoing Zone V championships in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The team left in high gear. In Mandy Juruni, Gad Eteu and Bernice Ankunda, the federation had hit at a winning team of coaches.

Both the coaches and players were moderately facilitated and even flown to the venue avoiding the tasking road trip. But still we failed to get out of the group stages, only holding our heads high with a 80-66 win against Tanzania.

What went wrong?

Adequate preparations have always been our Achilles' heel. Eleven days and two friendly matches don't point to a sense of preparedness for a tournament of such calibre. While a National Team Steering committee was set up to ensure that the team goes places and actually competes rather than participate, there was not enough time for its work.

The basketball league goes from April to December, leaving no time for the players to play together or even squeeze in some friendly games. The other thing is that the selection panel needs to have a sense of direction. Leaving out Isaac Afidra haunted the team especially in game two against Rwanda which they lost 85-90.

Afidra knows what it means to play crutch basketball; ask any Dmark Power how he delivered the 2011 title with seconds on the clock.

The selection panel also didn't cross-check the details of the players they had on the final 12-man list. For instance, Team Uganda missed out on the services of Geoffrey Soro throughout the tournament because his passport information wasn't matching with the information submitted.

Soro was exceptional in the league and even in the buildup matches but without him, the team lacked an anchor in the paint. Teams don't just win on court and nothing can be overlooked or taken for granted.

Hope now remains with the women's team which secured their second win 63-41 against Tanzania last night.

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