Wednesday, August 25
*Senegal Vs Uganda, 7pm
Friday, August 27
*Uganda Vs Cameroon, 1pm
Sunday, August 29
*South Sudan Vs Uganda, 7pm
Former National team player and current JKL Dolphins coach Henry Malinga has weighed in on Silverbacks chances at the 2021 Afrobasket in Kigali.
The Silverbacks whose tournament preparations were marred with financial hardships, face five-time winners Senegal in Kigali on Wednesday.
This will be the third straight time Uganda takes part at this stage since their debut in 2015.
Malinga who won five NBL league titles (4 with Falcons and 1 with Warriors), was part of the squad that represented Uganda as the team made their Afrobasket debut in 2015 in Tunisia.
“It was an honour and great feeling to represent my country at such a big stage,” Malinga told The-SportsNation.
“A player is able to gauge himself individually on where they stand in comparison to other teams. I think it’s a very good step, very good for local players as well those are not really exposed, it is a very good step for them to actually get to understand where they lie in terms of competition.”
In 2015, Malinga and Uganda lost all their group games – They were in a tough Group A that had record winners and host Tunisia, eventual champions Nigeria and Central Africa Republic who were making their eighth consecutive appearance!
Malinga, a three-time NBL MVP, remembers: “It was a very good experience us debuting for the first time, it opened our eyes, we also realised were not gifted with size but if you notice now we begun to appreciate the importance of size, having bigger players on the team.”
“My experience then was that we needed to go big, and that we have to prepare these young players for these stages a little bit earlier.”
Then, the country finished 15th of the 16 teams after beating Zimbabwe in a classification game. The team returned at 2017 Afrobasket where they managed to finish 13th out of the 16 teams.
Malinga who is regarded as one of the best Centres Uganda has ever produced, says that the country has failed to make a mark on the continent because it does not prioritise Sports.
He bases his argument on the poor preparations that saw the team leave for Kigali without holding a single training session due to late support from the Government.
“I want to be optimistic but I also understand the importance of preparations. Truth be told where we are is better than not being there. So we take it the way it is, but we need to keep it in our minds that our preparations were not ripe for this and also the pandemic has affected,” Malinga states.
He explains further: “As a society and a nation, Sport is not our priority and that is where the challenge is. We need to change the midset of our people and it goes back to the smallest unit and that is the family. The moment a parent appreciates the importance of Sport (it should go hand in hand with Education), we will be up there.
“I want to hope for the best, but I know we have not prepared well. But I would also say that with the squad we have, we should take what we get.”
After Senegal, Uganda will play a much experienced Cameroon before facing a fast-rising South Sudan with the top two advancing to the knockout.
On his message to Silverbacks players in Kigali, he said: “Basketball is a Universal Sport, what they can do we can do, the best they should do is to play with pride, play for the nation and make sure they leave everything they have on the floor.”