Without doubt, KIU Titans were last season’s biggest disappointment in the National Basketball League whichever way you look at it.
KIU carried high expectations into the season and there was a chance the Titans could be in contention for the title especially after winning over 20 consecutive games but they did not even get to the championship round.
However, the Kansanga-based side seems to have taken steps in the right direction. No strangers to new additions every other season, they have not disappointed and have added new faces to the core that lost to Power in the semifinals last year, along which came new assistant coach.
Titans exhibited some glimpses of brilliance enroute to winning the first edition of FUBA Easter Cup and look like a team that is trying to find an identity and a blue print going by the first game of the season against Ndejje University and at various intervals during the game against JKL Dolphins.
In their work plan, focus is in trying to create an identity on the defensive end and creating as many open looks at the offensive end as possible by moving the basketball around more and running multiple half court plays.
But do they have the talent to execute that plan? Yes, they do! But having players who can execute the work plan is one thing, getting them to convert it into tangible results is another.
So, let’s try and take a closer look at the Titans. Shall we?
It’s clear that head coach Hamza Nyambogo and his assistant Brian Wathum want their players to create as many open shots as possible.
And don’t be mistaken, an open shot is not necessarily a high-efficiency shot but it takes team chemistry to create many open looks.
It may be what you struggled with in secondary school or even currently with your ‘significant’ other, but when talking about basketball, chemistry is a must. Basketball is a game of tempo, trust and teamwork and if all five guys aren’t on the same page, the results will not easily come.
In the National Basketball League, team chemistry can mean the difference between a championship and collapse when it matters. Even with a collection of stars, time together is needed for everyone to get on the same page, learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses and know how the team will perform best when certain players are on the court.
Of course not all championship teams are created equal. Sometimes there are teams that win a title because they are lucky, or perhaps they get hot at the right time but over the past few years City Oilers have demonstrated it’s not luck.
From the outside, Sudi Ulanga should the number one offensive option for the Titans. A lot of open three-point shots will be created for the shooting guard but it will take understanding and appreciating of roles as well as sacrifice.
“The players know their roles and have embraced them wholesomely. They continue to put in work in practice and will also continue to prepare themselves for the ultimate goal,” Wathum told Kawowo Sports.
Chris Omanye is the second offensive option and unlike Ulanga, he is self-sufficient. Micheal Bwanga or probably Francis Sokoroza may direct the rest of the offense, but when they need a break or when the offense stagnates, as it did in the games against Ndejje and JKL, Omanye can step in and generate offense all by himself – and often all for himself. He probably has the best handles in the league, can get to the rim at will and is a good finisher once he gets there. And if the defense sags off too far to anticipate the drive, Omanye can launch the three.
KIU’s coaching staff will also look at Ethienne Kazungu as the other main source of points with his mid-range elbow jumpers. The energy and agility of former regular season MVP Geoffrey Soro should be important for the Titans not just on the defensive end but also at the scoring end. His ability to slide from up-top the stripe to the basket could get Titans high-percentage shots.
The KIU Titans have started on creating an identity on the defensive end. Right from their first pre-season tournament – the UCU Invitational when they started using the 1-3-1 zone defense, they seem to be building upon it and could work through the season.
“We are heading into the right direction especially with our preparation during preseason.
“Currently we are in the process of getting a workable identity especially on the defensive end. Everyone knows that to thrive in this league you need to be willing to play amazing defense and we have made huge strides in that direction and we continue to work,” Wathum said
Geoffrey Soro provides the energy on defense and is the most vocal at that end. Ivan Lumanyika, Francis Mbuyi and Kazungu can use their size to protect the basket.
The book of issues with the KIU Titans starts with transition defense and offense alike.
The Titans seem to have been bought into set plays since last season that they can hardly get points in transition – even when a player has one opponent to beat to the basket.
Nyambogo and Wathum have to install modern basketball philosophy with a fast pace that includes open three-point shots, drives to the rim and a transition-focused offense to complement isolations and post-up plays and the rest of the stuff in half court plays.
Core of the team
In many sports disciplines, a superstar team can mask a coach’s inabilities but in basketball the opposite is true.
Hierarchy is such a big issue in basketball to the extent that no matter how good your players are there has got to be hierarchy on the floor or you are bound to fail.
Over the past couple of seasons, it has been next to impossible to know who the starting five of KIU Titans are – let alone who form the core of the team or who brings what to team. To put it in perspective, every player on floor had the liberty to take a shot from anywhere and whenever they please and that’s not how basketball works.
Ivan Lumanyika has the ability to become a top and most dominant center given his athleticism, yet he always seems to find a way to disappoint and frustrate coaches, teammates and fans.
Lumanyika who alongside Soro sat out the entire game against Ndejje has consistently shown the behavior and attitude of an adolescent.
He has not played even to half of what he did at UCU Canons (especially in his last year when they reached the finals) and yet he’s supposed to form the core of the Titans.
The checklist of things Nyambogo and Wathum have to do from now to the playoffs are exhaustive but once executed perfectly, KIU could break the semifinal mediocrity and play at the championship round.