FIBA Africa Qualifiers
Host city: Bamako
Dates: Feb 23-25
Group B: Mali, Nigeria,
Rwanda & Uganda
23 Feb v Nigeria
24 Feb v Mali
25 Feb v Rwanda
The 12th and final spot on the Uganda Silverbacks squad bound for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers in Mali, Bamako came down to a three-man race between Jonah Otim, Mark Opio and Jonathan Egau.
Of the three, it is Opio who had been left out of the Silverbacks 2017 Afrobasket squad and given the glut of options in Uganda’s backcourt, lightning was likely to strike again.
But it did not and Opio was selected to team up with Jimmy Enabu, Josh Johnson, Cyrus Kiviri and Sam Mukooza in Uganda’s one and two spots although you can expect Robinson Odoch to get some time as shooter guard, his natural position and one he played almost exclusively at the last Afrobasket.
The merits or otherwise of Opio’s selection and how much playing time he should get is a matter for another discussion.
What is certain is the increasing level of competition for a place among the Silverbacks.
The hard part of it
It is a situation that the selectors are still getting used to with coach Mandy Juruni confessing the continued difficulty he gets in naming his squads for such tournaments, in particular when it comes to cutting players.
“I hate the part of telling players they haven’t made the team,” Juruni said.
Players usually hate it too and they have often taken being dropped personally.
This time, though, selectors are hoping for a different reaction from the players who were left behind.
“It’s a long campaign and we are going to rely on many players,” Team Uganda chairman Santur Mohammed.
“Those who didn’t make it now will get a chance later. They just have to keep working and competing.”
Players: S. Omony, J. Enabu, R. Opong, B. Ssebirumbi, S. Ociti, S. Mukooza, J. Johnson, C. Kiviri, J. Okello, S. Mugerwa, M. Opio & J. Ikong Coaches: Omar Barajab and M. Juruni