The UCU Canons have upped preparations ahead of their match against the Destiny Phenoms as the second round of the men’s National Basketball League resumes on August 7 at the YMCA Courts in Wandegeya, Kampala.
The team has been training in the absence of Coach Nick Natuhereza who has been on national duty with the under-18 side for the Afro basket championship in Kigali, Rwanda.
However, this has not hampered the team spirit in camp under the stewardship of skipper Jonathan Egau.
“We are working very hard and rebuilding for the second round. We need to be in good shape as a team,” Egau said.
He is optimistic about the chances of the team finishing the season strong and booking a comfortable play-offs spot.
“The plan is to win all our games and finish in the top three so that as we go into the play-offs we are not affected by positioning. We had a good first round but we need to start and finish the second round on a high. The spirit is great and the boys are ready for the challenge,” he added.
The Canons finished the first round third on the table. That is 19 points and an 8-3 winless streak, tied with fourth-placed KIU Titans, and a point below second-placed Tiger Head Power. City Oilers, who won all their first round games, lead the table with 22 points.
Meanwhile, the Lady Canons will play A1 Challenge on August 5, also at the YMCA Courts in Wandegeya, Kampala.
The Canons have always been known to nurture break-through stars and put up league championship competition week-in, week-out. This season the team has impressed in spite of the pessimistic attitudes of some pundits towards the team. This team is under the stewardship of a young, high flying captain, JONATHAN EGAU. Ronald Awany sat down with him for a one-on-one interview. Here is the exclusive.
Name: Jonathan Egau
Course: BBA 2
Schools attended: Pioneer Primary School, Teso College Aloet, St Peter’s College Tororo, St Michael High School Sonde, Kibibi Secondary School, and UCU.
When did you start playing basketball?
That was in 2006 when I had just joined Teso College Aloet. Back then the Malinga brothers (Henry, Erick, and Alex) were a household name in the local league and the fact that they were from Teso inspired me so much, I wanted to grow up and play basketball like them.
What is your strength on court?
Jumping! I can jump so high, the reason I find picking rebounds and dunking quiet easy.
How do you manage captaining a team and having so much responsibility at such a young age?
It is a good feeling that comes with a lot of responsibility. It is important to have the support of my teammates, especially during challenging times.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Going pro, and captaining the national side. In fact this year I hope to be called up to the national team.
Do you ever anticipate winning the league during your leadership?
Yes! This team consists of a fine set of players with great quality and the ability to win the league. We just need to adjust in a few areas and we shall be champions.
How do you spend your free time?
I go out with friends, a lot. I go swimming too and play a lot of relaxing basketball.
Any role models?
Dwayne Wade formerly with the Miami Heat and now with the Chicago Bulls, and then locally, Stephen Omony.
What is your favourite meal?
Smoked goat meat in g-nuts paste and attapa (millet bread)
How do you balance your academics and on court commitments?
It is always challenging but at the end of the day, I try to draw a balance between the two. On an average day, I have to work out, hit the gym and throw some hoops and at the same time I have to be committed to class obligations.
What is your best and worst game of all time?
This season’s first leg tie against City Oil was my best. In spite of the fact that we lost 73-72, I had a great game in general and scored 23 points.
My worst is still City Oil, Game Seven of last year’s finals. We could have won the championship yet I felt I could have done more to help the team.
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Canons have been known as a team of tales, but the tale of comeback victories is not one they have written often.
Such is the manner of victory Coach Nick Natuhereza’s side attained against a dominant Power side in game eight of the National Basketball League on June 17, at YMCA Courts in Wandegeya.
P e r s i s t e n c e , resilience, and determination were the combination the Canons applied and overturned a 20-point deficit in the third quarter to win 61-56 against a rather complacent Power side.
While Power captain, Joseph Ikong scored 14 points with Mike Makiadi adding a double-double (16 points and 13 rebounds), it was Yahaya Kalyesubula who led the fight back for the Canons with 16 points, Steven Wundi 11 points and Brian Namake 10 points.
Power dictated matters in the first two quarters leading 19-9 and 20-14 respectively with the score at 39-23 at half time. For most of the game, it looked like the win had eluded the Canons as they failed to find rhythm and the hoop.
Five minutes into the third quarter and it looked like the Canons had saved t h e b e s t for last. Pacy, offensive transitions and rock-solid defensive display forced Power into errors and turnovers, which the Canons capitalized on to win the third and final quarters 9-21 and 8-17 respectively.
The roar of a wounded lion is one to be feared as much as its strike could be worse. The same can be said of the UCU Canons as they heaped more misery onto the Star Times Falcons’ poor start to the season with a 76-36 mauling on Friday 10 at the Lugogo Indoor Stadium, writes RONALD AWANY
While the result was a befitting recovery for the Canons who lost their previous game 73-72 to defending champions City Oil in a heavily contested encounter, the same cannot be said of the Falcons who have since won only one of their last six games this season.
“We needed to put Oilers behind us and move on, and this for me was the best way to do it,” Canons coach, Nicholas Natuhereza said.
However, Falcons’ captain Vinnie Jurua blamed the loss on the injuries of the majority of their senior players and remained adamant it would affect their chances of making the playoffs.
“The loss does not impact negatively on us because it is still early in the season to jump to conclusions. Besides, we are still trying to build something with the new players,” he said.
The game started off to a tense and fast-paced first quarter but both teams failed to find the hoop until Douglas Uwereza opened the account for Falcons after two minutes of barren play.
The Falcons held on to a 6-2 lead that only lasted three minutes, their only one throughout the game, before the Canons broke away to end the first quarter 15-9.
At first the game seemed fun-promising for the fans, many of whom expected both teams to put up a spirited fight.
However, after the first quarter, the quick passing, fast transitions and deadly offensive onslaught by the university side exposed and crippled the Falcons who quickly ran out of steam to allow the Canons a 33-17 second quarter get-away.
Even the expected second half come-back from the record champions did not materialize. Instead, it is the Mukono-based side that continued to deliver, beating their opponents 61-26, in the third quarter.
Steven Wundi topped the scoring charts for the Canons with 20 points and 8 rebounds, Jonathan Egau 16 points, Yahaya Kalyesubula 14 and Andrew Gang 11 while Joseph Shiva 11, was the only player to have managed a double figure for the Falcons team.
The win pushes the Canons to fifth spot behind City Oil, Our Saviour, Power and Pemba Warriors on the table, while the Falcons drop to tenth.
Earlier, defending champions, the UCU Lady Canons made easy prey of their opponents, the Magic Stormers, winning 78-43 to make it four in a row.
The Falcons return to action against the KIU Titans while the Magic Stormers play Nkumba Marines on June 17, at YMCA in Wandegeya.
In the other fixtures, the Canons and Lady Canons play Destiny Phenoms and JKL Lady Dolphins respectively on June 19, at YMCA.
“They have shown great character, determination, hunger and consistency game after game.”
These were the words of a fan after the UCU Canons triumphed 60-51 over Ndejje University Angels in the FUBA National Basketball League (NBL).
The two sides met in another all-university encounter as the Canons extended their season streak to 3-1, on May 27, at Lugogo Indoor Stadium, in Kampala.
The win was the third consecutive one for Nick Natuhereza’s side who have since recovered from the 53-38 league opening loss to Our Saviour.
Canons’ captain, Jonathan Egau, applauded his teammates for their zeal.
“We have the chemistry working again. We need to work harder and do a lot more shooting, be quicker and more creative on the transitions,” he said.
Unlike in previous matches where he did most of the donkey work and missed out on the top scorer’s sheet, Canons’ Brian Namake managed a game high double, scoring 16 points and picking 11 rebounds.
The team produced a speedy combination of good defence and antagonizing offence to end the first quarter 27-16.
Things however slowed down in the second quarter with the Canons and Ndejje Angels both managing a staggering ten and nine points respectively. The third and fourth were not any different as the Canons continued to dictate possession and hold on for a nine point game win.
The game between the Lady Canons and A1 Challenge, which was to be played on May 29, was postponed till further notice as the latter were involved in funeral arrangements.
The sixth season of Friday Night Lights (FNL) fun Basketball Tournament, kicked off on March 4, at the YMCA Courts in Wandegeya with three Lady Canons stars featuring.
Judith Nansobya, Vilma Achieng and Zaina Lukwameri play for Team Koma, Team Jonah and Team Kami respectively, while none of the Canons men features this season.
The tournament involves national Basketball League players who team up with fans, then tussle it out for cash.
Each team takes home Shs3m irrespective of the result, but the major catch will be on the final winners. The overall winner will walk away with Shs3m, while the first runner-up will get Shs 2million and the second runner-up Shs1.5m.
The organizers chose eight captains: Maureen Amoding (Team Amoding), Kami Kabange (Team Kami), Ben Komakech (Team Koma), Jonah Otim (Team Jonah), Joseph Ikong (Team Ikong), Norman Blick (Team Blick), Ivan Enabu (Team Enabu) and Team Wazee (consists of legends of the game).
Canons’ Steven Wundi attempts to go past City OIlers’ Jonah Otim during the KIU Invitational in Kansanga (Photo by Ronald Awany)
The early exit of the UCU Canons from the Kampala International University (KIU) Basketball Invitational at Kansanga in Kampala a fortnight ago left many fans and pundits wondering if the team would repeat last season’s heroics after fielding a small and mostly young squad throughout the tournament.
Coach Nick’s side were knocked out in the group stages after picking up a single win against new league entrants, the UPDF Tomhawks, and losing the other two to KIU and City Oilers.
The team was experiencing first life on the courts without Boniface Okello, Martin Okwako, Joseph Wacha, Ivan Lumanyika, Innocent Oduor and Joseph Chuma who have since exited the team.
Desmond Owili and Brain Namake both of whom are still in the team were also absent on personal business.
The team had to rely on talisman Steven Wundi, Jonathan Egau, Wal Madol, Chuma Fadhili, YahayaKalyesubula, and Andrew Gang along new entrants Jonathan Obukunyang, Derrick Isiku and David Okello.
After losing at least six first-team players, the Canons showed all signs of a team that is in dire need of new experienced players to be able to compete with rivals and to boost the now very small squad.
During an interview with The Standard, Natuhereza reiterated the need to make additions.
“We are definitely going to make new signings and we have up to mid season to do that,” he said.
“But I do not want to be rushed into signing anyone because what we need is quality.
“There are gaps that we need to fill and we will definitely do that,” he added.
Teams have intensified preparations in order to compete for the league title in the upcoming season.
KIU Titans, City Oilers, and Our Saviour have notably all made new signings.