UGANDA : Titans dreaming big
The word titan means giant. For a team to call themselves that implies they cannot be shaken. When Kampala International University (KIU) won the 2002 East Africa Inter University Games title, no name was as fitting as Titans.
That regional victory came in the year when the institution opened. They also started competing in the national league that same year.
“I can recall that since we came, we have been very consistent in the league, playing in the men’s topflight,” said Bernard Egwel, the senior sports tutor at KIU.
According to Egwel, adding KIU Rangers, the female basketball team, to the cocktail, is a major step in using basketball to keep the university’s name afloat.
“We have moved through the ranks with the Rangers reaching the play-offs on seven occasions and Titans once,” revealed Egwel.
To reward the enduring sportsmen, KIU, through basketball, offers both sports and academic scholarships to the best players which boosts their morale.
“This scholarship scheme was implemented to attract qualified and talented players,” he divulged.
Over the years, KIU have produced several stars, some of whom have gone to attain similar scholarships in America. Tewin Semakula, Hadijja Kiiza, Miriam Tamale and Carlos Oluka are some players, who excelled at KIU before landing scholarship opportunities in America - the spiritual home of basketball.
Despite losing star players to other clubs very often, KIU continue to win numerous accolades at university level. “We have been the defending champions in the East Africa Games until last year when we lost to Strathmore University,” Egwel, also Federation of Uganda Basketball Associations (Fuba) vice-president (administration), added.
So often, their rhythm is distracted by players missing games during holidays. Egwel remains satisfied with the success thus far under the circumstances.
The losses make him even more motivated for the second round of this year’s league starting August 21. A championship vow is not far over the hill.
“We believe KIU has the best squad to win the 2011 championship,” he added keeping faith in coach Nimrod Kaboha, the main architect of the meagre league success.
Kaboha has produced the some awesome talent in the league, lifting the pride of both the Titans and Rangers. They are among the most feared teams in the league, slightly behind DMark Power, Kyambogo Warriors and Falcons for the men and KCC Leopards and UCU Lady Canons for the women.
Kaboha has managed to beat Falcons this season and lost by a point to UCU. Despite his strictness, Kaboha is referred to as ‘Daddy’ by his players.
This name was bestowed upon him for his uncompromising character when players report late for training – both Titans and Rangers. This season, Titans’ captain Abraham Juma Deng has risen to be one of the most outstanding players whom the team looks up.
Brian Watti and Saidi Marine are also some of the other players who make the team proud though the latter hasn’t played this season.
Kaboha’s catchment in the women’s team includes Judith Nansobya, the team captain, Ritah Kyomugisha and Mercy Etyang.
“Since the scholarship scheme only allows competent players to apply, there is always talent, Kyomugisha said.Adding: “Besides we have a basketball court in the university so we hardly use other courts to practice and get ample time to play.”
Kyomugisha pointed out that before the school constructed their own court, they used to trek to YMCA in Wandegeya, some good miles away.
“Being an international university, the best international players join us which is good for the team in terms of talent,” Kyomugisha noted.
There is an even bigger bonus for players who performed as the institution retains them for employment when they complete their studies, thus guiding the new ones.
Challenges remain in plenty. “Our main challenge is when our players go for holidays yet the league is on and unfavourable weather conditions like rain,” she explained.
“The only problem is that we have an open court and if it rains no one shows up,” she added. The rules are also prohibitive at times. Whereas the league allows all, the university games only let in players below the age of 28 and must be students.
These restrictions have not deterred KIU from collecting a mammoth 15 trophies but still wait for a league trophy.