KAMPALA.

The first game of any tournament is very important in setting the tone for the rest of the competition. Win it and you are in. Lose it and you could be playing catch up.

Silverbacks, Uganda’s national basketball team, will have seen their counterparts, the Gazelles, open their Fiba Africa Zone V Nations Championship account against hosts Egypt last night.

Now, it’s the Silverbacks to take the lesson as they seek to finish among the top two for a second successive appearance at the Afrobasket.

Silverbacks face enigmatic Somalia in their tournament opener at the Cairo Stadium, Olympic Centre in Egypt.
It’s a repeat of the 2015 Afrobasket qualifying opener played here three years ago. Uganda won that 84-74 with Ivan Lumanyika posting 11 points and 15 rebounds.

The crowd played a big part in that and that will not be the case in Cairo. “It’s different (from 2014) because we will not be competing in front of our home crowd,” guard Jimmy Enabu said.

“But, never the less emerging as victors away from home is very thrilling.” This is Enabu’s second visit to Cairo in three months.
He is already feeling like an expert have travelled there in a wintry December as his club, City Oilers, competed in the Fiba Africa Club Championship.

“It’s a little bit warmer but still chilly though,” he noted. Weather aside, coach Mandy Juruni will hand Darius Pegues, 6’10, his debut for Uganda.

The 28-year old Ugandan has played basketball in the prestigious America National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). He went undrafted by the NBA in 2015.

“He adds size, can shoot well and can play down low,” Juruni said.
Pegues is one of two foreign-based players, the other being Stanley Ocitti, who are part of the two as the federation couldn’t raise money for the planned four.

ZONE V NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP
M: Rwanda v Kenya, 3.45pm
M: Uganda v Somalia, 6pm
W: Egypt v Somalia, 8pm
W: Uganda v Kenya, 10.15pm

ikigongo@ug.nationmedia.com