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Basketball 2017: Silverbacks wrap up memorable year

By Charles Mutebi

Added 3rd January 2018 04:49 PM

The team played with much better structure and tactical awareness

Basketball 2017: Silverbacks wrap up memorable year

The team played with much better structure and tactical awareness

A second consecutive appearance at Afrobasket for the Silverbacks rendered 2017 another memorable year for Ugandan basketball.
 
Although there would be no victories in three outings, there was undeniable growth in the Silverbacks' performances - a direct result of interim coach George Galanapolous' work in his short reign as team boss.
 
The team played with much better structure and tactical awareness relative to two years ago, something that allowed it to compete every single time. In fact, the game most feared prior to the tournament is the one Galanapolous' men nearly won, coming within seconds of stunning record Afrobasket Champions Angola on opening night.
 
And who knows what would have happened if the Silverbacks had held on for victory.
 
What we know for certain is Uganda's displays earned plenty of admirers and offered clues on how to succeed at this level, clues that will be vital as the Silverbacks embark on another qualification campaign, this time in the reformatted FIBA World Cup qualifiers, starting February 2018.
 
At the same time, the Uganda Gazelles did not return to the Women's Afrobasket and that, beyond being a point of disappointment, is a source of serious concern going forward. The Gazelles cannot guarantee the availability of Claire Lamunu, Peace Proscovia and Sharon Karungi henceforth just like they could not have them for the FIBA Zone V Qualifier in Egypt, precipitating the team's poor display.
 
All of which would not be a problem if there were replacements on the way, except there are none. Or at least none with equal promise of talent.
 
The Gazelles have a crisis of playing staff on their hands, the Silverbacks have one the way… seemingly. Stanley Ociti and Stephen Omony are probably on the last legs of their last legs, Ben Komakech may never get back to his best and Joseph Ikong is probably not getting any better.
 
Perhaps the Silverbacks will come to count on Sam Kalwanyi and Mathew Ochieng plus other foreign-bred players of Ugandan extraction who are as yet unknown but how about the Gazelles? Who will they depend on?
 
Oilers back-to-back Zone V Champs
 
The talent question was equally central as the City Oilers defended their FIBA Zone V Clubs Championship in Kampala.
 
The team relied on four imports from North America, with only Jimmy Enabu making the starting five of the Oilers locally-based contingent. Some questioned the rationale of bringing down players of such a high calibre for such a tournament especially since the Oilers' home team has won four NBL titles.
 
But for the Oilers hierarchy, the Zone V tournament was largely a stepping stone to the Africa Club Championships, where all those players would be needed, and the only way to ensure they get there was by winning it all.
 
And whatever sensitivities the Oilers might have offended by splashing the cash, they more than made up for by hosting the classiest tournament in the history of the Zone V Championships. Say a prayer for next year's host.
 
The Oilers are currently still in Tunisia at the Africa Club Championships, where they reached the quarterfinals in yet another milestone for the club. Moreover the four-time defending national champions have this season's NBL Finals against underdogs KIU Titans still to come.
 
UCU's historic three-peat
 
Once again the Oilers have enjoyed the best season of any NBL outfit. They were, however, not the only winners. The UCU Lady Canons swept rivals KCCA Leopards 3-0 to claim their third successive NBL women's title and seventh overall.
 
UCU also finished third in the Zone V event, a respectable placing but one that extended the country's wait for a first women's title in the regional meet.
 
Said Titans also ended their long wait for a Finals appearance after stunning the Pemba Warriors 3-1 in the NBL playoff semi-finals. KIU will attempt to do what's never been done - defeat the Oilers in an NBL series.
 
Few expect it though many want it. That, though, must wait till early 2018, after the Oilers return and recover from their African excursions.
 
There were innumerable challenges in the running of FUBA's league activities, from the NBL to the D-League, challenges expected to lessen in 2018 following the recent signing of a sponsorship deal with East Africa Breweries.  
 
Still, 2017 will go down in history as a memorable year for the local hoops family.
 
 

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