Silverbacks dare to dream of World Cup

Hope alive. Robinson Opong (C) gave a good account. PHOTO | FUBA

The national men’s basketball team, the Silverbacks, are expected to touch down at Entebbe airport from Angola this morning after completing the first round of the Fiba World Cup qualifiers.

Three games played, one won, two lost and still in it to fight for a place at the world stage.

Five African teams will make the World Cup and having finished sixth at Afrobasket, the Silverbacks feel making the top five is a genuine possibility.

The Silverbacks were not able to have the best team in place for the first window of qualifiers due to commitments for several stars in their professional teams and colleges.

Ishmail Wainwright, Arthur Kaluma, Adam Seiko, Deng Geu and Kieran Zziwa all missed the qualifier. This left the team with only one starter from the team that finished sixth at Afrobasket – captain Jimmy Enabu.

Those who made it to Benguela only arrived hours to the first game with Mali due to financial constraints that saw the players and the team set off late. In fact, the team had pulled out of the first qualifier window last week but got back into it after a meeting with Sports minister.

Robinson Opong arrived after the Mali loss and only played two games, his offense pivotal in the 77-74 win over Cape Verde on day two.

With the one win, Uganda leave Benguela in third place and in position to progress after the second round of games in July next year.

Juruni rues bad preps

Beating Cape Verde gives the Silverbacks a better head-to-head compared to the islanders despite both having four points. Mali and Nigeria got two wins and set the pace in the group with five points each.

The Mali game came too early for the team and exposed what comes with inadequate preparation.

“It showed that we didn’t prepare well before coming here,” coach Mandy Juruni said after the loss to Nigeria.

“There are many things we’ve not done right as a team. Our offense was not good enough.”

Juruni’s words speak to the fact that a team needs proper training and preparations before big events like the World Cup qualifiers. The group of locally-based players had just two weeks of training and only met up with the foreign-based lot a few hours to their first game.

For Uganda to make the World Cup, they will have to maintain third place in the next window of games and progress from group A.

The Davies show

Brandon Davies was the team’s best player from Benguela and averaged 24.3 points per game and 10.7 rebounds. His biggest undoing was the generosity with possession as he averaged five turnovers in a game.

Uganda as a team had a massive average of 21 turnovers in the three games and paid the price for that in the two losses that sandwiched the only win in Angola. Opong averaged 12.5 points in two games.

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