Natuhereza Positive As Uganda Start Afrobasket Preps Amidst Challenges

Uganda coach Nicholas Natuhereza has maintained a positive attitude in the face of adversity as the Gazelles start preparations for the Women’s African Basketball Championship qualifiers.

The team will start training today (Friday) at 3pm at City High School for the showpiece scheduled July 12-27 at the Kigali Arena.

Uganda will seek to make amends after fluffing a chance in 2019 on home soil when they lost to Kenya in the semis at the Lugogo Arena.

A team of 12 players – including debutants like Sharon Kirabo, was summoned earlier this week.

Urysla Cotton Kelenza, Jamila ‘Zama’ Nansikombi, Ritah Immanishimwe, Martha Soigi, Sarah Ageno and Judith ‘Ayo’ Nansobya are the players who were part of the 2019 team that have not made it to the current roster various reasons.

“If you look at it in regards of the players who were not there in the last campaign, those were big part of the last team but its been two years since. The ones we have this year are players who have improved a lot over that period,” Natuhereza told The-SportsNation.

“Until we go over the 20+ sessions that we have planned, I can only be excited about working and building something that we can judge by the time we can get from last practice session.

“The last team was strong on paper but did not start to prepare earlier as this one, I believe we are going to prepare better with this one.
Also, the players we have from this year have improved greatly over the two period.

“They are the best in our league so far going by the performances then we have some players.”

Sharon Kirabo, Stella Oyella and Leticia Awor are the new faces.

US-based stars Zama and Jane Asinde will not make the trip.

US based small forward Jamila ‘Zama’ Nansikombi. FUBA

Coach Nick explains: “All the foreign based players we had are players that are in school currently. There are also players that we had identified, but have school obligations and travelling around this time is also a hurdle.

“They were excited about the possibility of joining us but there are circumstances that are beyond their control.”

Rwanda, who Uganda beat in 2019 losers match to finish third, have started their preps with residential training at Kigali Arena. The side summoned a squad of 17 including foreign based stars like US-based quartet of Sifa Joyeuse Ineza, Hope Butera, Bella Murekatete and Tierra Henderson.

Due to financial constraints, Natuhereza will start working with just 12 players which may leave the team shorthanded in case of Covid or injury.

He explains: “We actually had a much longer list, we had a good number of young players that we thought could be in camp, one they get an opportunity to start the process with the National team so may be we get to see them more, but obviously due to little resources we cannot have a huge team in camp.

“We have a couple of players on standby, but for the national team if you have eight solid players that you can rely on, you are not in a bad place.”

Brenda Ekone (red) in action against Rwanda in 2019 Afrobasket Zone Five Qualifiers at Lugogo indoor.

The Basketball Federation (FUBA) will need about Shs200m to prepare and also take part in the qualifiers in Kigali.

With Government yet to meet its end of the bargain, the team will not be in the bubble as they start the preps despite the Covid19 surge.

By that, the Gazelles will be skating on thin ice after the Men’s team (Silverbacks) had their Afrobasket qualifiers postponed when about five players tested positive for Covid19 just hours to first game in Tunisia.

The Rugby 7s team were on Thursday withdrawn from Olympics Repechage Tournament due to Covid19 cases after the team arrived in Monaco.

Natuhereza says that they hope to eventually get into a bubble.

Granted, the other biggest hurdle is the team will be training at City High outdoor court under the scorching sun despite the fact that the Qualifiers will be played at the Kigali indoor Arena.

NCS has remained rigid on the use of Lugogo Indoor and the team is set to leave for Kigali without even a single warm up game at the indoor facility. That defies logic given that its only 12 players who may be in the arena, with no fans.



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