Written by John Vianney Nsimbe
This season’s playoffs tip off this weekend when Power take on Falcons and Warriors battle Uganda Christian University (UCU) Canons.
While Falcons have six titles, Power two and Warriors one, UCU have a blank. As such, they shall expectedly be the undisputed underdogs when they commence their campaign against the defending champions, Warriors, at the newly refurbished Lugogo Indoor Stadium, Sunday.
The underdog status, though, is one that will suit UCU star point-guard, Ivan Enabu just fine. He knows the pressures that the favourites tag brings along. Back in the 2007 season, Enabu’s UCU were considered favourites heading into the playoffs.
They had come off the back of a strong regular season in which they had lost just twice. And their glowing regular season seemed to be following them into the post season when they battered Falcons by a 25-point difference in Game One of the three-game series.
Sadly for UCU, Falcons turned the tables and ran out winners in the final two games. Expectedly, such a painful loss taught UCU players a lot. “Losing was new to us,” Enabu says, adding, “We didn’t understand teams well. All we concentrated on was how well we played and that cost us.”
But this time, Enabu says, they’ve done a good job studying the teams. For example, they know that DMark Power is a running team; Warriors is both a running and physical team while Falcons relies on their defence and big players in the paint.
However, many observers question the credential of Nick Natuhereza. A bit-part player in the UCU team that came unstuck in 2007, the observers have reduced Natuhereza to a novice.
Enabu, though, isn’t in doubt about Natuhereza’s abilities and believes the much-maligned coach “has instilled tactical awareness and discipline in the team.”
Such tactical awareness and discipline has shepherded UCU to regular season wins over Warriors (twice), DMark Power and Falcons.
Two issues have made UCU look vulnerable this season. They have been overly dependent on Enabu so much that if you stop the point-guard then you have stopped UCU. Such a flaw predictably doesn’t bode well for UCU as does the poor form of their big men.
UCU’s October 13 loss to Power just about showed how toothless UCU’s big men are. January Naftali and Robert Ogweno appear so frail and unimposing in defence and attack compared to their predecessors from the class of 2007 and 2008 like, Phillip Odour, Herbert Akite and Eric Nyamai.
Besides, Robert Mugabe is also struggling for form. This leaves the team depending on Enabu, Jeff Omondi, Jimmy Enabu and Steven Mwesigye on the outside.
This is in stark contrast with Warriors’ quartet of Michael Kariuki, Eric Malinga, Stephen Okias and Martin Okwako. As such, if UCU are to upstage Warriors in the playoffs, they will have to do a lot of work.