UGANDA : UCU out to prove a point

Written by FELIX EUPAL

When UCU Canons came onto the basketball scene as a Dvision III side five years ago, few took note of the new entrants. All eyes were on Jason Mehl, the American who was coaching them.

The boys from Mukono went the entire season unbeaten – including the playoffs – as they progressed to Division II. They repeated the same feat in 2006 as they progressed to topflight basketball in 2007.

In their maiden season with the big boys, they won 16 of 18 regular season games before falling to Mountain Dew Falcons in the playoff semifinals. Given their rapid progress, many expected 2008 to be their year. It wasn’t to be as they once again fell at the semifinal stage, this time to Power.

Then all hell broke loose in 2009 when Mehl, the ‘sixth man,’ walked out on the team citing personal reasons. His departure triggered an exodus of several key players. As such, the team lacked a leader, depth and most of all inspiration.

That season, they managed only four wins and had it not been the fixture blunder by the technical committee, UCU would probably have been relegated. In an effort to put that behind them, the club hired former player Nick Natuhereza to replace Mehl in January.

They also wooed star point guard Ivan Enabu into staying. Former player Jeff Omondi also returned after a short stint at Kenya Ports Authority basketball club. UCU have also added the services of shooting guard Jimmy Enabu and he has already shown how explosive they can be at offense.

This Friday, they start their 2010 campaign against 2008 DMark Power, who are still basking in the glory of beating defending champions Warriors in the season opener.

Natuhereza says: “We might have lost to them [Power] at the semifinals at our invitational tournament but I’m sure that is not going to happen again. This is a very experienced side and they will know what to do.”

But having experience is one thing and turning it into a victory is another. Power boasts of a flawless offense but are short on picking rebounds. Last season’s top scorer Isaac Afidra is yet to recapture his top form after months on the sidelines serious injury.

Natuhereza has the opportunity of building his team’s morale and confidence by getting a victory tomorrow because despite being early days, a bad start will just make the equation harder for the rookie coach.