It is just sinking into most people’s minds that KIU Titans will not be playing in this year’s National Basketball League finals.
After losing to UCU Canons in the decisive game of their semifinal series last year, KIU went back to the drawing board to forge a way to their first ever finals appearance.
They assembled arguably the best squad in the league with Sudi Ulanga and Ivan Lumanyika coming in from Power and UCU Canons respectively.
Kutai Gatwech joined the party from Sharing Youths while Mathew Ochieng joined the ranks from high school. Oscar Muge came in from Kenyan side USIU while Jean Hakizimana and Ettiene Kazungu were the exports from Burundi.
“Our momentum should be much better than last year’s and we are going for it (title),” head coach Hamza Nyambogo told Kawowo Sports at the start of the season.
After last year’s semifinal exit at the hands of UCU Canons, KIU didn’t need an overhaul to do better this season.
The rich back court already had Francis Sokoraza, Chris Omanye, Norman Blick and Collins Kasujja while the front court had the experienced Henry Malinga and the agile Geoffrey Soro.
Only a few additions would have made the Titans a force to reckon with in the league.
But, onto the available guards, KIU added elite talent in Sudi Ulanga and Hakizimana arguably the best players in their respective positions not only in KIU but in the league.
In the end Nyambogo failed to come out with his best team and kept experimenting various rotations and combinations until the team was sent packing by a Power side working with only 7 players.
Winning streak “If many cooks use the right ingredients they will prepare a good meal,” Nyambogo once said when asked about his big roster.
The start was not what had been anticipated though; a loss to defending champions was followed by two more to a depleted UCU Canons and Power. That was it.
KIU started the season and the only difference, this time round, was their winning streak. Before losing game two of their semifinal series, KIU had won 22 games in a row.
The side overcame their poor start to the season to put up a 19-game winning streak in the regular season. They swept StarTimes Falcons 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs before winning game one of the semis.
Power then won two in a row and KIU fans started wearing their familiar faces of the previous seasons. With elimination looming, KIU had no choice but to play basketball in Game 4, their best game of the playoffs this season, and they forced a decider.
While Nyambogo will take most of the stick for failing to figure out how to use his rich arsenal, some players’ dismal displays cannot go unnoticed.
Lumanyika barely played all season and his consistent performances came in the playoffs. The center, who injured his nose after an elbow by Paul Odong in game one of the semifinals, has not been the player he was in his last season with UCU.
Soro blew hot and cold all season while Malinga is not getting any younger.
Henry Malinga, Norman Blick and Francis Sokoraza are some of the senior players on the team and should have had a bigger role to play especially in the playoffs.
They have been there and done it all but they didn’t get that much time on the floor.
With the squad that KIU have, it should be easy for a coach to establish a winning team. A mixture of experience, hunger and agility.
Hamza Nyambogo didn’t use his best assets to create a winning team. His rotations and player combinations left a lot to be desired.
Until the team’s final game of the season, one would hardly figure out what KIU’s best team was and that is the responsibility of the coach.