After the news about the shipping out of up to seven players broke, the KIU Titans’ rebuilding era officially got underway. Surely it’s not the sweetest time for the fans of the club but it’s a necessary phase for any team in the National Basketball League.
Through reconstruction, with new blood in its veins, a team can emerge once again and make it to the top in the following years and that is the route KIU Titans have taken.
“I think it was time for the club to rebuild because we had been talking about it for a while. We sat down with the management and realized if we are going to be competitive in the next two or three years, we need to start now,” head coach Brian Wathum told Kawowo Sports.
“We wanted to move past acquiring players and instead nature our own. It is exciting to have these young players on the team,” he added.
Arnold Kisekka (Crane High), Peter Obleng (Buddo SS/Archers BC), Rajab Mpiima (Kibuli SS), Edgar Munoba (Seeta High), Ahmed Kassa (Kampala University), Elvis Mutebi (Kampala University), Bruhan Ngobi (Nkumba Marines), and Fadhul Suka (Nkumba Marines) are some of the new players at the Kansanga based outfit.
“One of the qualities we went for when we were recruiting was humility. We wanted to get kids who are willing to learn and that has been their main attitude during training. Every day we are trying to learn how to do the right thing with room for mistakes.
“The young guns like it here and are getting to understand what it will take for them to be competitive as a team,” Wathum said with optimism.
Having more than half of the players new to the team, let alone inexperience, only means struggle – especially with chemistry.
For KIU it goes beyond just being new players, most haven’t played at the highest level in the land and it goes without saying they will get a lot of stick in the big boys’ league.
Wathum is well aware of the challenges that come with having a group of youngsters and has not set the bar too high for his team as he will be content with a playoff spot at the end of the normal season.
“We want to compete in each and every game. Of course we know it is going to be a tough season and there are going to be tough losses but we want to be in the playoffs.”
Fortunately, Wathum and the Titans do have some things to rely on and some of the pieces of the new team have been with the side for a couple of seasons.
While Michael Bwanga missed some part of last season because he was in and out of the country, the Congolese guard is expected to come back strong this season. Bwanga has, since his acquisition, shown that he can be a centrepiece for the KIU Titans team and has the trust of head coach Brian Wathum and supremo Nasser Sserunjogi.
The exit of Chris Omanye at the start of last year and Sudi Ulanga early this year means Bwanga will be the face of KIU. He clearly is the most complete player at KIU. The point guard has tremendous passing and finishing through traffic abilities that could make up for some of the team flaws.
“It’s important to have experience in the side, you cannot overhaul everybody. We have a mentorship program within the team where the guards will mentor the guards and the big men will do the same. So, for Collin (Kasujja), Bwanga and Odom (Francis Kasinde) to be in this setting is to help mentor the young ones and make them better players,” says Wathum.
The Titans have yet another valuable piece in their roster, named Francis Kasinde. Coming off a season he played regularly since he came into the league, Odom, as he is popularly known, proved that going to KIU was worth it.
Like Bwanga, Kasinde has the trust of the coach as the vocal leader of the group. Given his athleticism and energy as well as all-around skills as a player, Kasinde could provide a great spark to the young team, more so the frontcourt.
Currently the longest serving player on the team, it was only right that Collins Kasujja is named the captain. He may not be the most productive player on the offensive end but he is a relentless defender who is not afraid to get dirty and so he has been since joining the side. Together with Bwanga and Kasinde, they will form the trio around which the new team will be built.
The point is that the era of the “superstar” team that made the finals in 2017 has now ended for good. If the rebuilding process goes well, the Titans will again make the big step but first of all have to look reality into the eye, and the reality is a season or two of growing pains.