By Richard Wetaya
The Silver-bucks, the bulk of whom, are well into their 30’s have once again just proved why Uganda is a basketballing behemoth in the Zone 5 region.
Qualifying for Africa’s biggest basketballing showpiece, for the second time, on the trot, even as the Bucks lost to arch nemesis-Egypt in the finals was not exactly a jarring experience.
Many may have not expected it but by now, all and sundry should know that the Silver-bucks can ball.
They showed and proved that in their Group B preliminary games against Somalia and Burundi and in the semis against Rwanda.
Egypt, which has its own history of fielding old players both on the soccer pitch and basketball court, beat the Silver-bucks 95-72 in the final.
By and large, the qualification milestone vindicates the Silver-back’s 30 something players, most of whom, had been the butt of ill advised jokes on the popular B ball 256 Buzz facebook page.
Before the team even got in camp, there was a hue and cry on the page about the lack of younger guys on the team.
Amos Lesuk, a firebrand member of the group sparked off the back and forth debates on whether the older members of the Silver-bucks or the old crooks as he likes to call them, should still be on the team.
The 30 and above guys on the team; to wit-Stephen Omony, Stephen Ociti, Joseph Ikong, Norman Blick before he was dropped and Ben Komakech were the target of the unflattering jokes and insults.
The firebrands on the page rationalized that some of the older Silver-bucks had, to all intents and purposes, outlived their balling time and to that end, they demanded, they should give way to younger ballers.
Unbeknown to most of the critics, the older Silver-bucks could still ball.
At length, the detractors behind the “get the old guys out of the Silver-bucks” campaign have been forced to eat humbie pie.
The old crooks served the detractors revenge in its coldest form.
Impressive performances in the Afro-basket qualifying tournament in Egypt spoke to the fact.
In the first group B game against Somalia, the older crooks showed how they were far from washed up, leading all scorers as the Bucks won 94-72.
Omony, City Oil’s new recruit scored 17 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Hate him or love him, Omony just seems to get better with age.
Ocitti led all scorers with 33 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals, Ikong had 11 points.
In the second game against Burundi, where the Bucks won 99-54, Omony dropped 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Komaketch had 8 points and 6 rebounds, whilst Ikong had 8 and 7 rebounds, respectively.
One of the youngest Bucks-Jonan Otim top scored with 16 points.
In the penultimate game against Rwanda, Omony for the umpteenth time showed his mettle, scoring 15 points.
Ocitti had 16 and Ikong 16. The Silver buck that the ladies in the stands were drooling over-the heavily tattooed Ugandan American-Darrius Pegus top scored with 20.
In the final game against Egypt, the old crooks again brought hard work to bear. Ocitti had 7 points-6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Omony top scored with 19 points-3 rebounds and 2 assists.
Ikong has a low scoring night with 6 points 1 rebound and 2 assists.
Jimmy Enabu had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
History seems to favour the older Silver-bucks. It is buccaneers like Omony, Ikong, Norman Blick, and Henry Malinga who played first fiddle as the Silver Bucks beat off competition to qualify for the 2016 edition of the Afro-basket in Tunisia.
Ikong did not play particularly well in the 2016 Afro-basket tournament, but he has given a good account of himself in Egypt. The young guys who want to take his place will need to put in work.
The Ikong who played like he had a fireball in his belly in the National league finals against City Oilers, showed his mettle this time and his lady fans seem ecstatic. We can only imagine how the wife feels.
The Bucks qualification for Afro-basket 2017 is a feat that manifests a betterment in the team’s prospects, especially now that the Bucks have a dazzling front court tag team in Stephen Ociti and Darrius Pegues and for good measure, some promising young players in Joseph Chuma, Michael Madol, Otim Jonan and Mark Opio.
The trolls must have had a field day when Henry Malinga and Norman Blick both announced they had hang up their boots, but there is a lot of leeway to be made up before their slots are adequately filled.
Granted there are new guys but Malinga and Norman in their prime held down the fort in the positions, they played in. Ugandan basketball fans should be beholden to them.
“Ultimately the future of Uganda basketball lies in the hands of the younger guys, but they have to prove they can step up to the plate. We can not rely on trial and error in tournaments. Experience plays the biggest part in tournaments like the one which has just ended in Egypt. It is the reason, the older guys were needed. To be on the national team, one has to show and prove in the league that they are good enough and for the coach, it does not matter if the guys who excel are old or not,” says Johnson Nsubuga, an ex-player and youth Coach.
Some of the older guys on the Silver-bucks are on their swansongs.
If that is not music to the ears of young players, then one can’t possibly understand what could be.
Ocitti is on his swansong, possibly. Omony may hypothetically also be on his swansong. We already know Norman Blick and Henry Malinga retired.
Silver-bucks Coach Mandy Juruni has made it clear that no young players will be given the go by if they excel in the league.
Otim and Madol have been examples .They excelled and deservedly made the team.
The young player’s work is however cut out as FUBA-the sport’s governing body looks set to get more foreign based players. That spells one thing-the young guys will have to put in work.
By submitting your comment, you agree to receive email updates from participating authors