UGANDA : Jury still out on Charging Rhino

Topflight returnees have failed to live up to the pre-season hype, writes Dorothy Kyamazima

Even with two wins from five league games, Charging Rhino have not yet fallen short of their ambition. While it might be too early to predict the fate of any team in the league, especially one that has just crossed over from second division to the heat of the first division, Rhinos has repeatedly made its presence felt and if anything, has grabbed the attention of the big contenders in the league.

With a group of skilled players, Charging Rhino laid down a strong marker when they defeated the 2009 Fuba basketball champions, Kyambogo Warriors by a staggering 14 points. Skipper Mark Opio, last year’s reigning MVP and top scorer in the second division, managed a whopping 20 points.

He had an able supporting cast of Walter Omony and Fahmy Ssebatindira who made 17 and 12 points respectively to put a halt to Warriors’ winning streak. Although Warriors attributed their loss to the ghastly condition of the court after the heavy downpour, Opio says the big scalp came as no surprise; he expects Charging Rhino to thrive whilst sporting the underdogs tag.

Opio, however, reckons Charging Rhino players don’t have to get carried away for they lack the size and experience of most of their peers in the first division. Even with new players like Rashid Male, Abel Omongin, Joseph Odyek, Fahmy Ssebatindira, Joseph Bongomin, Nasser Katumba, Brian Cucu and Erau Timothy, Charging Rhino has managed to form the chemistry needed to thrive in the first division.

It was this chemistry that gave reigning champions D’Mark Power a scare recently. Power had to work their socks off to secure a two-point victory off a plucky Charging Rhino.

That said, however, the chance to participate in this year’s playoffs lingers in their minds and many pundits expect them to be involved in a relegation dogfight. Former Coach John Omondi, who scooped the Coach of the Year award, was the brains behind the Rhino’s remarkable drift into local basketball’s topflight league.

Though Omondi gave up his seat to his replacement, Mutebi Rooney, the latter doesn’t seem to be doing a bad job. Critics, however, contend that Mutebi lacks the necessary credentials needed to steer the team to greater heights.