KAMPALA (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Two years ago, Uganda made a first appearance in the FIBA AfroBasket in over three decades.
Stanley Ocitti - one of the team's key players - said they learned from the experience and will apply the lessons in August when the biennial tournament gets underway in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
"I think we will surprise a lot of people this time round. We have learned from the last time." - Ocitti
How Uganda will try to return to Africa's elite basketball tournament - by attempting to see off regional rivals Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and also Egypt - is a process that Ocitti revealed is already underway.
"We are talking with a lot of Ugandans who live outside the country, some who are playing [US NCAA] Division 1 basketball, where some are developing their skill level," the 2.03m forward noted to FIBA.com.
"The approach is to go outside and get as much help as possible from Ugandans to help us on the international level. I think we will surprise a lot of people this time round. We have learned from the last time."
In Tunisia two years ago, he averaged a team-high 14.6 points to go with 6.4 rebounds per contest. The Ugandans returned home with a 1-4 record thanks to a win over Zimbabwe.
Yet, unsurprisingly, because of the growing popularity of the game in the country, local fans remain upbeat.
"We have learnt from the last time and we will apply it in this coming FIBA AfroBasket," Ocitti explained.
What exactly did he personally learn from the tournament? Not much for a man who has travelled the world playing professional basketball, but his younger teammates seemed to have made the most of the experience.
"[They] are going to be the face of Uganda basketball for the next five to 10 years," he warned. "It was good for them to go there and see the level. It was a good learning experience. Our mentality is to keep moving forward as a team."
Ocitti wasn't just impressive leading Uganda by example in Tunisia. He gave everything he could.
Remember when Nigeria's Stan Okoye tried to dunk on Ocitti, but ended up shattering the board?
"I didn't say anything to him. At the end of the day, a block is a block. As long as he didn’t score two points, I am fine with it," he recalled. "Nigeria team are very well disciplined, they are very strong. Things like that happen. I am more upset that we lost to them by such a wide margin [98-59] than the dunk. It was a great attempt, but at the end of the day, the stat sheet shows that it was a block. So, I am happy."
Asked how he manages to handle his career as a players' agent with his own playing career, Ocitti, who last featured for local club City Oilers at the FIBA Africa Champions Cup (ACC), replied: "As a player, I am coming to my retirement age, I am thinking about life after basketball. Opportunities like this tournament [ACC] allow me to come here and network with coaches, GM (General Managers), and then at the same time I still have a little ounce of energy to play."