By Isaac Akugizibwe
KIU, Main Campus-Born on 14th December 1999 in Lugazi, Buikwe district in Eastern Uganda, KIU Titans skipper Joseph Dramaza has never paid to study since discovering his basketball talent.
Growing up, most boys in Uganda are easily obsessed with football, given its acute popularity and simplicity in the organisation but little Dramaza naturally fell for basketball.
Lugazi is a sugar cane growing area and has one of Uganda's biggest sugar processing factories that attracts citizens from all corners for employment.
The town of Lugazi blossoms over the success of Mehta corporation, a company started by an Indian immigrant in 1913. It was Uganda's first multinational company and it currently employs over 30,000 Ugandans.
The establishment of Mehta saw an emergence of different cultures in the surrounding areas among which include sports like cricket, basketball and baseball as well as the widely loved, soccer. Introduced by missionaries and peace corps some time in the 1960s, Basketball was first played in central Uganda, to be precise Kampala, but the game then popular with American culture, easily spread to eastern Uganda.
Schools like Namasagali college,Mwiri College Jinja, and Naalya SS among others adopted the game to their co-curricular and soon it spread to communities like Lugazi, becoming the second most popular game after Football in the last decade.
Dramaza grew up watching his seniors play and what they would do with the ball between the hooks fascinated him to give it a trial as well. That was the beginning of his story.
When he completed primary school, Dramaza joined Naalya secondary school, Lugazi campus. It is at this school that him and basketball coined a unique acquaintance that his extraordinary skills, physicality and determination played out loud. He was a wonder to watch, a menace to the opponents and an inspiration to colleagues. This made him popular on and off the court.
Before joining senior three in 2014, Dramo was given a scholarship at Lubiri Secondary school, one of Uganda's leading schools in Basketball. He would only spend there a one-year stint which saw him complete O'level.
Due to his love for adventure, the 23year old Titan moved to Kibuli Secondary school, another prestigious basketball stronghold and still had all school dues covered by the school. His was to avail himself, play basketball for the school, study and pass examinations. This was in 2016.
While at Kibuli SS, Dramaza never disappointed either. He found other incredible talents and among them was his KIU Titans teammate, Henry Okoth. Together, they helped Kibuli Secondary school establish itself as one of the best sides in Uganda's high school basketball between 2016 and 2018.
"I have been with Dramaza from high school at lubiri SS and later we crossed to kibuli ss. Now we are titans. He's more than just a teammate, he is my brother," Henry Okoth, KIU Titans.
In August 2018, Dramaza joined KIU to pursue a bachelor of development studies though he had been introduced into, the University's basketball team even before sitting for UACE. Since joining the Titans, Dramaza has been one of the most consistent, dependable and versatile players both in discipline and performance.
"He is a strong Power forward who brings positive energy every single day to the team," KIU Titans Coach Raymond Muhumuza admits.
"He is a type of player that can play both inside the paint and outside on the perimeter," Muhumuza adds.
Being captain of a side like KIU Titans comes with great responsibility and pressure but for a man only waiting to graduate with a bachelor of development studies, the job requires confidence, calmness, teamwork and understanding. This is how he has managed it.
And when it comes to basketball and books,Dramo gives each its appropriate time. "I have managed to balance books and basketball by only having the right timetable for each and better planning," he says.
With physicality, unbeatable defensive abilities and the easiness with which he connects with teammates on and off court, Dramaza is a darling to both fellow players and the fans.
" We go hard on each other when it comes to training. Off seasons he always calls me we go do hill work together but he also advises me whenever I have some issues gone wrong," Henry Okoth narrates.
"Coming to the field of play, Dramaza is our engine who always optimizes us when it comes to the defensive side of play. He's one player who's not scared of anybody be it a big man or Guard, he always brings them down," he adds.
The other thing, people like about Dramaza is his ability to overcome the pressure and sometimes humiliation on the court. He is a flexible fellow who never easily succumbs to emotions, something ardent KIU Titans fans admire most of his qualities.
"As his name Nyondo, Dramo has been a master in his game, to defend, shoot, team discipline making him one of the most outstanding players in the team besides the other rising strong guys in our team," Dornum Amumpaire Sheillah, one of the leading KIU Titans fans acknowledges.
Dramaza's current goal is to win NBL with KIU Titans as he aims to take his talent to the international scene. He hopes to play in the US or Europe someday.
However, he is confident that KIU Titans will become NBL champions at the end of this season, which will be their first ever.