14 April 2015

UGANDA : City Oilers the team to beat!

THREE-PRONGED ATTACK: City Oilers players go for a rebound against as Falcons’ Steven Mwesigye (R) looks on haplessly
There is something awfully familiar about the 2015 National Basketball league that rolled off over the weekend. Barring a major crumble, City Oilers are bound to defend the title, writes FELIX EUPAL.

City Oilers
Stability is the key to many success stories and the Oilers have followed that script. They have kept together the team that won them the national title last year and, on top of that, added Burundian forward Landry Ndikumana from Zone V champions Urunani.
Ndikumana showed flashes of brilliance at the just-concluded Friday Night Lights (FNL) series. His rebounding and good vision will come in handy to make Oilers’ already efficient offence even better. Even with point guard Ben Komakech recovering from a knee operation, they have enough depth on the back court to steer them on. 

Tiger Head Power
Power have been the busiest team in the transfer window, bringing in point guards Sudi Ulanga from UCU Canons, Fahmy Ssebatindira from Charging Rhino and centre Michael Makiadi from KIU. Former players Ken Balyejusa and Richard Balemwa also rejoined the team. On top of that, Bernice Ankunda has been demoted to assistant coach to pave way for Kenyan tactician Robert Mugabe as head coach. 
Prior to this, Power sent out shockwaves when they axed forwards Isaac Afidra, David Kiberu and Derrick Mbusi for poor performance. Just like last year’s pre-season, Power have signaled the biggest intent to win the championship.

StarTimes Falcons
The six-time champions start the season with a fat budget, courtesy of pay sponsors StarTimes. However, the record champions seem to have moved a few steps backwards following the departure of Cryus Kiviri and Steven Mwesigye to Our Savior Basketball Club.
Team skipper and administrator Stephen Omony is tight-lipped about any developments, maintaining there will be a press conference to unveil the new players but the rumor mill has it that Falcons have taken their shopping spree budget to Burundi and Rwanda as well acquiring the services of forward Isaac Afidra.

KIU Titans
The Kasanga-based side is the team to watch this season. They started by signing Ndejje forward Geoffrey Soro, followed it up by hiring Hamza Nyambogo as head coach. Added to the Blick brothers Norman and Donald, Titans made their most significant acquisition in centre Henry Malinga from Warriors.
They have already proven that they can sit at the table of men, winning their own KIU Invitational after beating Oilers twice and being losing finalists at the just-concluded UCU Invitational. They have a balanced squad that can fire on both fronts and will be top contenders.

UCU Canons
Canons head coach Nick Natuhereza cannot wait for the season to begin: “We lost core players but that will give us a chance to do things afresh. It is the reason I can’t wait for the season to start,” he says. Canons lost Ulanga and Sande Okot to Power and Our Saviour respectively.
The university has brought in Steven Wundi from their junior side, Michael Madol from KIU Titans and Tanzanian forward Chuma Fadhil. Unfortunately, they will have to start the season without centre Desmond Owili, who is away in Australia.

Stanbic Warriors
The two-time champions are stuck in yet another player-transfer saga as they try to ensure that they don’t lose the services of Henry Malinga.
Last year, they successfully stopped wantaway Ivan Enabu from joining another club.
Meanwhile, Eric Malinga is in Nigeria, centre Jovan Odhiambo and point guard Mark Opio are being courted by various clubs and haven’t committed to the club. They have their work cut out to put their house in order.

Our Saviour
Many are wondering where this team came from but it is simple. When UCU JV won the second-tier Development league last season, which would have propelled them to the top-flight, the side was sold off to an America-based foundation called Our Saviour.
The team is now headed by former Falcons guard Martin Kelly but is yet to submit their team list. Their strong purse has seen them knock on the doors of several and could end up as party spoilers.

Ndejje Angels
Walker Obedi’s Angels suffered a disastrous second round last year, which is why they were pedestrian in the play-offs. Their star player Soro has also left the team but they have maintained their old squad.
They have also added Derrick Katumba and Chris Kyebambe from KIU while Godwin Khisa came out of retirement.
“The coaching department needs to improve and we are aiming at starting strong,” Obedi says.  

Sharing Youth
They won the most-improved team award at the recently-concluded Fuba awards and managed to make it to the play-offs last year on their return to top-flight.  However, the Nsambya-based team has been silent in the transfer market. 

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