Uncertainty looms large for relegated Power

Issac Afridra and Isaac Lugude celebrate after winning the 2010 league title at YMCA. PHOTOS/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

One of the oldest clubs in the game, having started in the 1990s, as the Baptist Saints, Power became a household name in local hoops.

On Sunday June 20, 2024, Dmark Power’s journey in the National Basketball League (NBL) came to an end following a 61-52 loss to Livingstone at YMCA in Wandegeya.

The defeat, Power’s 16th of the season, meant that the team would end the season with just six wins from 22 games and in 11th place to succumb to the relegation monster.

One of the oldest clubs in the game, having started in the 1990s, as the Baptist Saints, Power became a household name in local hoops.

In 1998, then named Black Power, they were one of the founding teams of the NBL and have since gone on to win it five times.

But with the team’s last championship coming in 2011, success in the league has been hard to come by the last decade.

Trips to the finals in 2016 and 2018 all ended in disappointment before tough times that have now resulted in relegation to the Fuba Division One.

The famous Power….Power….Power chants will now have to be sounded at lower league games that usually start early morning and sometimes played under the scorching sun.

Trouble in paradise

Power General Manager Allan Musoke was not even present as the last nail was put in his side’s coffin.

Center Philip Ameny and guard Elvis Mutebi also absconded from duty that day to highlight the team’s internal problems that led to the predicament.

Power small forward Joseph Ikong (C) tries to control the ball against UCU Canons' Jeff Omondi in 2011. 

The pair is said to have fallen out with head coach Timothy Odeke over playing time and gone AWOL after the 81-77 loss to Our Savior on June 22.

Odeke, on the other hand, blames players like Ameny for failing to understand the club’s objectives at the most crucial part of the season.

Ameny, recruited at the start of this season, averaged nine points, seven rebounds and four assists and was a big part of the team’s four first round wins.

His off court lifestyle is said to have bothered Odeke, who then cut his playing time, leading to the fall out.

Power were shorthanded throughout the first round, with only seven players and lost some close contests simply because the starters ran out of steam down the stretch.

Veterans Isaac Afidra and Ameny had to endure heavy minutes, averaging 31 and 32 minutes respectively.

The addition of Geoffrey Soro, Taariq Powell and Clinton Omondi during the mid-season transfer window was expected to help steady the ship but the situation only got worse, with Power only managing two wins in the second round.

Overall, Musoke’s leadership has been questioned by several stakeholders, who believe the club lacked direction and ended up with a thin squad and unresolved cases of indiscipline.

It is said that one of the deliverables mentioned by sponsors Dmark at the time of signing with the team was winning the championship by 2025, and now it remains to be seen whether they will stay on board.

What next?

“Nothing to say,” Musoke said of the club’s relegation before adding that the most important thing now is to “fight for promotion”.

“Management will meet and decide what to do next,” he added.

The first step for any relegated team is fighting to keep players for the lower division.

There are not many players willing to go down and some end up moving on to newly promoted sides that need league experience to survive the drop.

It remains to be seen which Power players will be willing to stay around and help the team fight for an immediate return to the top flight.

“I can't give you an answer right now,” forward Soro said.

New recruits Powell and Clinton Omondi showed glimpses of what they can do in the second round, averaging 10 points and three rebounds and eight points and 11 rebounds, respectively.

It is likely that top flight teams will come calling and the duo could be tempted to stay in the league.

Head coach Odeke, who doubles as a coach for Nkumba Marines, knows too well what it means to play and come out of the lower division.

And depending on Nkumba’s results from the season, Odeke could find himself having to decide whether to stay with Power or focus on the Marines, should the two sides end up in the same division.

“We will sit with management and see what to do next,” Odeke said.

This has been a frustrating season for Power. 

“Division One is a tough league and needs a concerted effort with everyone pulling in the same direction,” the former Uganda Gazelles tactician revealed.

Take note

Power is not the first big franchise to be relegated in Ugandan basketball. Falcons have been relegated twice since 2017 and are still languishing in Division One at the moment.

The six-time champions have struggled to become the competitive side they were in the 2000s.

Having last won the championship in 2007, Falcons are now a team oscillating between the top flight and Division One.

Two-time champions Warriors, meanwhile, is now defunct after failing to recover from the Covid-19 effects, and Power’s relegation might mean that none of the traditional Big Three will be in the top flight next season.

A clash between six-time champions Falcons and five-time winners Power might be the highlight of Division One next season unless the former fights from their current eighth place on the log and back to the top flight. 

Power Basketball Club

General Manager: Allan Musoke

Head coach: Timothy Odeke

Assistant coach: Brian Namake

Captain: Isaac Afidra

League Position: 11th (relegated)

Record: 6-16