The Zone V basketball championship finally kicks off from September 21-28 at MTN Arena, Lugogo after having suffered a setback in June when Egypt and Rwanda pulled out over various organizational reasons.
The regional tourney brings together 11 countries: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eriteria, Djibouti and Egypt. So far, South Sudan has pulled out of the tournament due to unclear circumstances; the other countries save for Tanzania, Eritrea and Djibouti have confirmed participation.
Uganda will be represented by two national teams; Silverbacks (men) and the Gazelles (women) were officially announced at press conference held at Hotel Africana yesterday. All eyes will be on Uganda’s foreign-based players that include Josh Johnson, John Balwigaire, Kassim Nangwere and Samuel Mukooza. US-based forward Sharon Karungi will be the centre of attention for the Gazelles, which is the national ladies team. Meanwhile, the Gazelles have few omissions, save for Maureen Amoding and Judith Nansobya, who skipped the tournament to take part in the 3/3 basketball challenge in Brazil. Three other players from last season’s league champions, City Oilers made the cut. Guards Jimmy Enabu, Ben Komakech were joined by Andrew Opio. Centres Brian Ssentongo and Sam Gombya, forward Peter Elungat and point guard Daniel Jjuko miss out from the Afrobasket qualifiers.
The Gazelle will be led by skipper Vickie Nassolo from A1 Challenge. Flavia Oketcho, Rebecca Akullo, Claire Lamunu, Monica Siima Muhayimina Namuwaya and Peace Proscovia all from KCCA Leopards made the team. Carol Nyafwono and Ruth Meme from Magic Stormers were also named. Sylvia Nakazibwe (A1 Challenge), Sharon Karungi (Valpo) and Lean Nalunkuma complete the Gazelles.
Only once has Uganda won the tournament and that was back in 2005 when it was hosted in Kampala. This time round, the tournament is unique because the finalists in both categories will get a chance to qualify for the Afro Basketball Championship next year. The same finalists will also make it to the 2015 All Africa Games 2015 in Brazzaville.