What you need to know:
- Fadhil Chuma, Fayed Baale, Jerry Kayanga, Caesar Adoke, Ibanda Lwabaga, Peter Sifuma and Lual himself all experience playing in the finals and going all the way to game seven
One of the names that stand out on the UCU Canons roster is that of Titus Lual Odeke. The forward is one of the more established players on the university team and has gained experience in the last three seasons.
He is now the captain of the ship and dreams of delivering what many captains have failed to in UCU’s history, a league championship.
The Canons have played two of the last five finals but lost in game seven on both occasions.
“Winning a championship requires discipline and playing for each other and I believe as UCU Canons, we have that,” the 23-year-old told Score.
“We have the composure and have gained some experience as a team,” he added.
Lual was part of the squad that lost to City Oilers in the 2019 finals. They might have lost the championship but the university side, according to their captain, learnt a lot that can be used in fighting for the title this season.
“We learnt a lot from the 2019 finals. The discipline of taking care of little details.
“I can say we lost game seven because of pressure and inexperience.
“Oilers, on the other hand, were composed and had enough experience.”
The Canons have started the season with a 2-0 record after wins over KIU Titans and Tropical Royals. They return to action this afternoon against six-time champions Falcons.
It is still early days in the season but the Canons, City Oilers and Namuwongo Blazers are the three teams seen by many as capable of challenging for the championship.
Their ability to shoot the ball and quick transition makes them a handful for any opponent. Whether they can feed off that to land the elusive championship this time round will be seen at the end of the season.
“As UCU, I think once we make the playoffs then we shall see what will come out of that, that is a whole different league altogether.
“We still have good chemistry and athleticism that has always been our advantage.
Nicholas Natuhereza’s charges have over the years lost players going into their prime after their courses. This time round though, a good number of players from the previous finals are still part of the team.
Fadhil Chuma, Fayed Baale, Jerry Kayanga, Caesar Adoke, Ibanda Lwabaga, Peter Sifuma and Lual himself all experience playing in the finals and going all the way to game seven.
The experience of veteran Sudi Ulanga should also come in handy, just like the length Emmanuel Makuei adds to the team.
Lual has become a permanent fixture in the senior men’s national team, Silverbacks and this has come with experience for the 6’10 big man.
Head coach George Galanopoulos has not used him much but the experience of being around the team, he says, is something every player would love to have.
“Silverbacks environment is full of talented and disciplined players,” he said.
“They have always talked to me and encouraged me.
“I have learnt to be disciplined on and off the court. Discipline is key in many things.”
Uganda is still in the running for FIBA World Cup qualification and the second window is slated for July. Lual will have to put in a good shift in the season to stay on the team.
Falcons can be dangerous
One would be right to say UCU and Falcons have totally different targets this season, realistically speaking. The Canons have won two in a row while Falcons have lost two in two.
The six-time champions will have to worry more about their status in the top flight at the end of the season while UCU are among those expected to challenge for the title.
They can’t be taken lightly though and Lual knows that too well.
“Falcons are a good team full of experience and we are not taking them for granted,” he noted.
“They are coming to compete and so we shall have to also be prepared for the same.
“The most prepared side will win.”
Indeed, Falcons cannot be taken lightly. They are wounded after losing two in a row and will be looking to get off the mark.
“That (winning) is the plan,” Falcons’ Douglas Uwizera, who stood in for head coach Tonny Oluka last Sunday, told this paper.
Oluka is expected to return to the bench after missing the loss to Ndejje due to personal commitments.
Falcons lost the game to Ndejje with the last play and also lost a close contest with Power to start the season. They lost that one by a single point and will be hoping for better luck today in Mukono