Written by Felix Eupal
When the Enabu brothers, Ivan and Jimmy, opted to leave UCU Canons for Kyambogo Warriors and Dmark Power respectively, critics were quick to write the obituary of the Mukono-based university outfit.
And true to their word, the Canons looked a shadow of themselves when the season tipped off. In fact, they actually appeared to have been more affected by the third loss of Steven Mwesigye who crossed over to 7up Falcons. Thanks to Martin Okwako’s struggles, the Canons’ rebounding was pathetic. And while point guard Suudi Ulanga improved their offence, the initial absence of towering centre Desmon Owili left them with paint problems.
As such, the Canons suffered a shocking defeat to Ndejje Angels followed by losses to Warriors and Miracle Eagles. There was no shame in losing to Warriors and Miracle, but the loss to Ndejje raised many eyebrows. Something needed to be done. Coach Nick Natuhereza did his homework, and the results are showing – Owili is threatening to bring down the YMCA hoops with his monster dunks, Sunday Okot rediscovered the power drives he was known for back in high school while Ulanga has been outstanding with the ball in his hands that he has now been branded Uganda’s Derrick Rose.
As things got rosy with the Canons registering back-to-back wins, Natuhereza unearthed another gem in the form of 6ft 9inch centre Jake Whetstone. The 22-year-old from Taccoa Falls College, who is here for a Masters in Development Studies at the Mukono-based University, might have only played two games against Charging Rhino and 7up Falcons but his contribution has already convinced many that Canons are not just back in the race for the playoffs but as title contenders.
Despite his height, Whetstone doesn’t provide the massive dunks but his contribution off the ball and ability to create options for his teammates has made the Canons paint impregnable. Sam Obol couldn’t find an answer to him last Friday as the Canons stopped his Falcons side 80-69.
“Any player who is 6ft 9inch and understands basketball is surely very important to any basketball team,” Natuhereza says of Whetstone.
This Friday Whetstone has to prove how important he really is when his side takes on Dmark Power in the Canons’ last game of the first round. With five victories to their name, the Canons are not leaving anything to chance.
Natuhereza’s tough love has come in handy in shaping the Canons resilience and the players know that very well after he suspended team skipper Jeff Omondi for the Falcon’s game for missing practice with no explanation.
Whilst Natuhereza has promised not to spare anyone who shows acts of indiscipline, Dmark Power seems to openly embrace indiscipline. But that doesn’t mean that the defending champions are not favorites. With only one loss to Warriors, Power will still be in the driving seat.