Since 2014, Uganda’s national team basketball has been on the rise and in the process, Silverbacks qualified for their first ever FIBA Afrobasket when the country host the zonal qualifiers at Lugogo Indoor Stadium.
Uganda’s qualification was at the expense of their neighbours and rivals Rwanda who had dominated regional basketball since the early 2000s.
The Silverbacks went on to qualify for the 2017 continental event at which they were joined by their rivals via a wild card and the appearance of the two meant they earned the rights to play in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers.
Interestingly, Rwanda and Uganda were drawn in the same first round qualification group. While Rwanda advanced to the second round of the qualifiers, Uganda’s journey to the global showpiece in China was cut short.
One of the players that has been part and partial of Uganda’s journey to the top is City Oilers guard Jimmy Enabu.
“I joined the team in 2011 and I think we have had a lot of success since then,” Enabu reflects on his national team career.
“We came close to qualifying for Afrobasket a couple of times and finally we made it in 2015 and since then, we have been going up and up, so that’s among the things that have been really good for us,” he adds.
Enabu has been part of the team that has been engaged in the world cup qualifiers in which Silverbacks recorded a single win that came in February against Rwanda in the first leg in Bamako, Mali.
While there was high optimism heading into the second leg of the first qualifying round in Lagos, Nigeria, it was a different story on the court. Uganda, who went into the into the event 1-2 and in second place, collapsed to 1-5 after losing to Nigeria as largely expected but shockingly suffered defeats to Mali and Rwanda.
“Losing to Rwanda and Mali in particular in this second round (leg) of the qualification for World Cup has been quite disappointing. I think we gave it our best but you know sometimes sports goes one way and we did not have so much control over that in the end,” Enabu says of the collapse.
“It’s definitely disappointing not being part of Afrobasket for the next time because we envisioned ourselves taking part in Afro and with all the back up we are getting for the national team, it’s quite disappointing to just fall out of the competition like this.”
Going forward, Enabu believes there a lot of improvements that can be made as far as the national team is concerned, but top most is putting in place a sustainable program for the Silverbacks.
“The improvements that should be made, one is we should have a sustainable program for the national team where by players are always in shape and some how we monitor what everyone is doing so that when people are called upon, we are good to go.”
Enabu and City Oilers teammates will now switch focus to defending the regional and national titles for a chance to play at the continental club cup.