There is nothing quite like the pleasure of getting a National Team call up only in your second year of playing basketball in the premier division.
Born to David Ssebagala and Mary Campline in Harukooto, Fort Portal twenty years ago, it all started for the City Oilers center, Samuel Kalwanyi at the Boma Grounds when he first stepped on a basketball court.
“I first stepped on a basketball court in 2009 when i was in senior four at Mpanga S.S” he recalls. “We were from an athletics practice and as we passed by the Boma Grounds court i was called on i think because of my height”
With the National Schools Championships hosted by local school St. Leo’s – Kyegobe and some games played on the same court, Kalwanyi gained more interest in the sport.
“I started picking interest in basketball during the National Championships at St. Leo’s (Kyegobe)” he says.
Kalwayi then moved to Nyakasura School for his A-Level and the interest in the game grew bigger. It pretty much started for the towering center from Nyakasura as he was motivated and shown the path to take from the school. He is grateful to two individuals – Daniel Musinguzi and Brian Mugisha – at the school who showed him the path to take.
“He (Musinguzi) always told me i had a future in basketball but then it would be hard to believe because i was very raw” Kalwanyi says. “They (Musinguzi and Mugisha) motivated me to play this game and they did everything so i could play and for that i will always be grateful”
In 2010, the 6’7 frame was identified by game legend, Henry Malinga who was officiating at the National Schools Championship quarter finals game between Nyakasura School and Mengo S.S.
While his school lost the game, it was Kalwanyi’s entry card into League Basketball as he joined Charging Rhinos, then in Division II in his senior six vacation and he says he started learning real basketball at Rhinos.
“From school when i joined Charging Rhinos in 2012 was when i started to learn real basketball” he says
The Charging Rhinos made the Division II playoff finals to face off with eventual City Oilers. The series earned Kalwanyi a place into City Oilers. After the finals in which Kalwanyi was top scorer and rebounder, the center was talked into joining City Oilers and took up the opportunity.
“I was talked into joining City Oilers after the finals (of Division II) and i accepted to join them for the offer they had for me”
Kalwanyi says it wasn’t easy getting into City Oilers given the big time players the club signed up for their first season in the premier basketball division – the likes of Arou Ramadhan, Kami Kabange and Jimmy Enabu came in but he found company in another new addition from Rez Life Saints, Daniel Jjuko.
“It wasnt easy fitting in there, man… I was nervous and could be teased a little by those big guys” he recalls. “I found Najja (Daniel Jjuko) and he gave me company”
Kalwanyi describes his first season with Oilers that he started off by going scoreless and picking a pair of rebounds in his first game as tough but ended up with a championship with his finger prints on.
“It was a tough season. I played under pressure and sometimes i could not get a jersey” he says.
Kalwanyi established himself on the City Oilers team in the playoffs. Arou’s knock towards the 2013 playoffs was a blessing in disguise for the denfesive player as he has since become an important piece in Oilers rotation.
He gives gratitude to Team Manager, Silver Rugambwa and teammate Kami Kabange.
“He (Rugambwa) talked to me after every game (and he still does). He encouraged me” Kalwanyi says of Rugambwa.
“Kami would always tell me where to be and what to do on court. He is a little tough on the court the court but you take it as learning” “I play against Kami in practice and that has helped me develop as a player”
After a good campaign with Oilers, Kalwanyi finally got the call he probably will never forget. As City Oilers were returning from the Zone V Club Championships in Mombasa, Kalwanyi was told he had been called up to National Team to start preps for the 2014 Zone V Nations Qualifiers.
“I could believe i was called to the National Team. It was a honour. It was a dream come true because i always dreamt of playing for the National Team” he says.
The City Oilers’ center, Samuel Kalwanyi was the surprise inclusion in the Silverbacks final twelve players ahead of Ndejje’s Brian Sentongo and Geoffrey Soro who had been regulars.
The hard working Kalwanyi who received his call to national duty for the first time was equally surprised when informed of his selection.
“I couldn’t believe when they called me to tell me about my inclusion,” Kalwanyi told Kawowo Sports then.
“I have been working hard in practice and the experienced guys kept pushing me on” he said of how he got into the final twelve.
“The coaches know my strength and that is why they selected me and I want to use that to help my country” the young center added.