Professionals show they can take Ugandan hoops places

Johnson Balwigaire (L) drives past Kenya’s Desmond Owili at the MTN Arena Lugogo recently. PHOTO BY I. KEZAALA

What you need to know:

For one, the six players got to bed in with their colleagues in the respective national teams. The chemistry will be priceless going forward.

An age-old dictum reminds us that statistics don’t bleed. In sports, though, statistics are its lifeblood. They never lie. Ever.
Having spent a princely sum to fly in professional players for the Fiba Afrobasket Zone V Championships from either side of the Atlantic, local basketball body, Fuba, was expecting a return on investment.

It might not have gotten one when the regional basketball tournament was postponed from June to September (21st to 28th, to be exact), but at least the profoundly potent performances of the professional players have given Fuba something to smile about.

Flying in half a dozen professional players hasn’t hemorrhaged cash per se. The Fabulous Six, if we may call them so, leave Uganda with badges of honour after putting in pretty useful shifts during the Heroes Day trial matches.

Your columnist knows that the odd showings over four quartets don’t offer a protraction from which to make an informed deduction, but saying that the professional players’ sojourn in Kampala was counterproductive, would be wholly wrong.

For one, the six players got to bed in with their colleagues in the respective national teams. The chemistry that has been developed will be priceless going forward.

But more than anything, the professional players showed that they can deliver on the floor. Brandon Sebirumbi, who plays professional basketball in Spain, was sizzling in the paint as the men’s national hoops team, the Silverbacks, thumped a select side (with the likes of Sudi Ulanga, Jimmy Enabu and Syrus Kiviri) 91-62.

Sebirumbi turned in a performance that was as neat as the long dreadlocks that were firmly secured behind his neck. The six foot-something centre pounded the inside en route to picking 11 rebounds (six of them offensive) and dropping 15 points. His points tally was equalled by Samuel Mukooza whose shooting from the arc was a beauty to behold. Mukooza sunk four of the seven three pointers he attempted, showing that he can help put gloss when the Silverbacks choose to spread the ball.

John Balwigaire, a student from Oklahoma State University, also delighted with his three point shooting, hitting the bull’s eye from downtown. His shooting from the charity line was surprisingly a bit rusty but he generally showed a good skill set (he has six assists). As indeed did UK-based Josh Johnson, who scored 10 points in an 18-minute display.

The women’s national basketball team, the Gazelles, beat a select side 48-42 in their trial match. Twenty-one of the 48 points the Gazelles scored were courtesy of Sharon Karungi, who plays college basketball in the US. That in itself tells the story of how important a piece Karungi can be in the Gazelles’ puzzle.

Karungi made eight of 14 attempted baskets, eclipsing ‘Miss Consistent’, Peace Proscovia. The Zone V Championships cannot start soon enough!


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