The Fiba Afrobasket qualifiers that ended on Sunday in Alexandria has had such an impact on George Galanopoulos that he ranks the success of the Silverbacks as one that delivered his ‘greatest feeling.’
The national basketball team recovered from an opening day 96-77 loss to hosts Egypt to beat Morocco 94-90 and Cape Verde 101-98.
They are now within striking distance of a third straight appearance. Forward Ishmail Wainwirght led the tournament with 21.3 points per game, including a game-high 36 points against Cape Verde.
“Our two wins meant a lot not only to this group but to the country of Uganda,” Galanopoulos says. “I am very grateful to be part of something so special with a great group of people who are pulling for the same direction.
“The people we have involved in Ugandan basketball are some of the best people I have ever been around. The people we have are some of the best I have had to work with.
“This is the greatest feeling I have ever had with a basketball team,” the Texas-based coach asserts. He now has a core who find this as important.
“It’s great to be in this position. Anytime I got to come out and represent Uganda, it’s definitely a fun moment. It means a lot to me,” Denmark-based Deng Geu, 13.3 points and eight rebounds, per game here, reveals.
Galanopoulos first came to Uganda in 2017 after spending the 2015-16 season working in player development with NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. So, for this to feel the way it does, it’s no mean feat.
No wonder team manager Albert Ahabwe described this team as having “the best chemistry ever” in his seven years.
In fact, the coach’s rotation was down to 10 as Emmanuel Mugenga and Joseph Ikong suffered pre-event injuries.
Galanopoulos will now be hoping that this team goes a step further by winning at least one game in the next qualification come February to ensure a place at the 2021 Afrobasket in Rwanda.
So what happens between now and then?
“I think we performed well in this window. We put ourselves in a good position. Now is time to recover then preps should start,” captain Jimmy Enabu said.
Enabu averaged 17.7 points, five assists and three assists per game. His statements are shared by shooting guard Robinson Opong whose 29 points devoured Morocco.
“The week has been great. I’m so happy that we have put ourselves in a position to make the Afrobasket. We showed that we learnt a lot from the past losses,” Opong said.
“It was important getting over the hump. Now, we have to go back and get ready to get better,” he added.
Opong’s average of 19 points per games was third-best.
Wainwright was the tournament leader in points, living up to the pre-event hype with eight rebounds and 5.7 assists.