UCU Canons’ Fadhili Chuma came into the 2019 National Basketball League playoff finals against City Oilers as the most experienced player from his team.
He's the only surviving player on the team that faced Oilers in the 2015 final albeit the fact that he was a rookie (in his first season at the club) by then.
At the time, he was a bench player, who largely came on to allow Desmond Owili and Ivan Lumanyika, the two big men that handled matters of UCU’s frontcourt then a breather. But fast forward, Chuma is UCU’s talisman, and much will depend on him this evening when they face Oilers in a decisive game five in Lugogo.
Oilers lead the series 3-1 following their 63-57 win over UCU last Friday in game four. That has clearly put more pressure on UCU whose only win is now a far cry.
“Indeed, it is a long time since we won. We know that we have to fight on Wednesday night if we are to stay in the championship,” Chuma said in an interview on Monday.
However, Chuma was quick to quash the argument, that he is the team’s go-to-guy upon whom every other player must draw inspiration from.
He said, “UCU is a solid team, where everyone has a role to play. It is not about one person. And unless we all play to our best, we shall not succeed.”
Chuma added that while the playoff finals have not been as tough as many people on the outside presuppose, he was forthright in pointing out how they have let themselves down as a team. He noted that they have made small mistakes which have decided the recent ties.
It would be downplaying the herculean task ahead of the UCU if the mistakes they have been making since game two to-date are to be classified as small. The fact that they have been repetitive points to a big problem. And they had close to a month since game three to rectify them.
A case in point is how their three-point shot attempts have not been successful. Their failure to keep a lid on Oilers’ frontcourt pair of James Okello and Landry Ndikumana has been glaring. And also the trouble they have faced containing Oilers' guards: Tony Drileba, Jimmy Enabu and Ben Komakech who have done well shooting from afar and also picking easy layups.
On the other hand, UCU’s decision-making coupled with a host of missed scoring chances has left them in despair; considering that Oilers are actually only using eight players following injuries to Stephen Omony, Francis Azolibe, Jonathan Egau and Daniel Jjuuko.
For the onlookers, UCU appear to be psychologically defeated even before the game begins, and that has been attributed to the lack of leadership; a place someone like Chuma should have been filling, many suppose.
Well, facing a six-time defending champion, as you seek your first championship has looked daunting for UCU, as the pressure builds up. Chuma, denies there is any pressure, and ironically, he is not a player to be drawn into talk, that tonight is a must-win game for UCU.