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Ugandan girls plot for Africa

Uganda’s Immaculate Adongpiny (R) dribbles past Rwanda’s Rachel Gikundiro during the Fiba Africa Zone Five qualifiers in Lugogo last week

Uganda’s Immaculate Adongpiny (R) dribbles past Rwanda’s Rachel Gikundiro during the Fiba Africa Zone Five qualifiers in Lugogo last week

Following their success in the regional qualifier, Uganda’s under-18 girls and boys’ basketball teams are now plotting for the forthcoming Fiba Africa Basketball Championships.

Fiba, the world basketball governing body, has set August for the championship to be held in Pretoria, South Africa. It is the first time since 2018, that the two are qualifying together. The girls qualified for the last one in Madagascar two years ago.

The girls have now qualified for a fifth time, while the boys it is the third. In the meantime, focus turns to how to ensure that the two teams, both of whom beat Rwandan sides in the finals of a week-long tournament at the Lugogo indoor stadium between June 9 and 14, are ready to be competitive at the continental stage.

Kenyan tactician, John Omondi, who guided the girls team, the Junior Gazelles to an 82-52 victory over Rwanda noted that he is in touch with the school coaches of these girls.

“They have a training programme to follow in order to keep them in good shape. But at the same time, the entire Junior Gazelles team is expected to travel to China for the International School Sport Federation (ISF) running between June 23 and July 3,” Omondi said.

While the aforementioned competition should enable the teams maintain a good level of the form they showed last week, most players on the boys team will unfortunately not be available. Most of them (Eli Ssenyange, Tejan Ruggete, Jotham Ssewanyana and Nkugwa Mubiru) returned to Europe or the USA immediately after the Zone Five qualifiers concluded on Friday night.

It is expected that home-based players such as Brighton Galiwango, Matthew Kisakye, Gideon Ekukwai, and Edrine Ekau, will make the trip.

But that will also depend on their school schedules. Notably, both Uganda’s boys and girls’ teams went through the qualifiers unbeaten, winning all their five games against Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, a mark of their dominance.

After what was a nail-biting boys final, where Uganda only seized bragging rights within the last 90 seconds, Andrew Tendo, their coach noted that having a protracted period with them, helped them become a real solid and competitive team. They had trailed Rwanda for long, albeit not by much.

But the fact that they were able to turn the final result of 69-66 in their favour showed the mental toughness of the players. For at least two weeks, the boys and girls were in camp going through the rigours of training. Yet, also, Omondi said, these teams have been together since last year, when they competed at the Under-16 Africa championship in Tunisia.

Then, the girls, who largely formed the current under-18 team, finished sixth of the eight teams in Monastir. For the boys, who had Tejan and Galiwango among others, finished tenth of ten teams, registering one victory in five games.

Omondi believes that such an experience is the reason these teams have been dominant here in their region.However, that is not all. There is a better scouting network around the country for quality talent.

American coach Michael Seger, who is part of the boys’ coaching staff, and is based in Northern Uganda, has been intentional in bringing in tall players like Victor Makmot and Duot Ajang. Height is fundamental in basketball, and Uganda will need it in South Africa.

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