The national men's basketball team, the Silverbacks, begin their quest for a top-eight finish at this year's Afrobasket championship tonight against the 2015 runners-up, Angola, reports JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE.
The Silverbacks’ start to the 2017 Afrobasket championship will not get any tough- er than the fact that they face Angola in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, at midnight.
Angola lost the 2015 Afrobasket final to Nigeria 65-74 in Tunisia. If that should be consolation to Uganda, that Angola are after all fallible, nothing could be more misleading: Angola have won 13 of the 14 Afrobasket championships since the maiden one in 1989. Suffice it to say, the Silverbacks will be up against it.
Silverbacks coach Mandy Juruni acknowledged that this being the pinnacle of African basketball, it has to be tough.
“We came here well aware of that, which matches the amount of effort we have put in to get ready. We have worked on our strengths, which is our ability to defend solidly,” Juruni said.
So, expect Uganda to hustle deep, and to rush the Angolans, to stop them getting into rhythm. Juruni is also concerned about the big size of the Angolans.
Therefore, to neutralize them, strong and tireless application will be required from Uganda, which is why the fitness and athleticism of the players has been a key work-out aspect. With fast and smaller players, Uganda is expected to rely a lot on the quick breaks to punish its group opponents.
These will include the Central Africa Republic and Morocco, whom they play on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Juruni also pointed out how much the game has evolved, generally, to rely a lot on precise shooting: “And because of our size, it is incumbent on us to execute our shots.”
However, being Uganda’s second successive appearance at the Afrobasket, they have some experience to boast about from last time. That does not come in small measure, where Stanley Ociti and A’Darius Pegues, Uganda’s two leading post players, are concerned.
The duo has had its tutelage in the USA and should give Uganda an edge with their ability to score freely. In 2015, Uganda only managed to beat Zimbabwe 72-64 in a classification game.
At least Uganda avoided carrying the wooden spoon, as they finished fifteenth. Yet, this time, the ambitions have changed. Juruni said they can make the quarterfinals this time.
Besides, Juruni could not stress enough the importance of the camp in Alexandria, Egypt from August 24, and how it has helped them focus for the championship. The players got to understand their roles in detail, and are good to go.
Angola v Uganda
CAR v Uganda
Uganda v Morocco