BAL: City Oilers out to right last season’s wrongs

City Oilers will want to go a step better despite the many changes. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

To automatically qualify for the playoffs, the Oilers must grab one of the two direct tickets from the Nile Conference or be one of the best third-placed teams at the end of the regular season.  

Three of the players who shone in City Oilers’ 72-70 defeat to Al Ahly last season are not with the club at the moment. 

Germaine Roebuck Jr., Falando Jones and James Justice Jr. are all not part of the journey this season as the Oilers chase a ticket to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Playoffs. 

Injured Roebuck Jr. was pivotal in that game, scoring 28 points and picking 11 rebounds while Justice Jr. and Jones added 15 and 11 points respectively as the Ugandan champions attempted to come back from a 33-point deficit against the eventual champions. 

The trio is missing in action for various reasons, like Roebuck Jr’s injury and Jones’ contract with Egyptian side Gezira, which could not allow him to re-sign for Oilers this season, but the show must go on.

To automatically qualify for the playoffs, the Oilers must grab one of the two direct tickets from the Nile Conference or be one of the best third-placed teams at the end of the regular season.  

New faces

Duke University-bound Khaman Maluach, Dane Miller Jr. and Robinson Opong are three of the big additions made by the nine-time Ugandan champions to negotiate the deep waters of the Nile Conference.

Maluach might be just 17 years old but he played in the finals with Senegal’s AS Douanes last season and also featured for South Sudan in the Fiba Basketball World Cup. That he is on his way to Duke tells the whole story of how good he is, a 7-ft-2-in centre who can do everything on the floor. From protecting the rim to setting screens and shooting the basketball.

Miller Jr. and Opong’s experience will add a layer of quality to the team that camped in Egypt two weeks before the tournament to fine-tune for this stage. 

Brandon Sebirumbi, Rembert Patrick Ronald, Ahmed Bashir Mohammed and Clupepper Randy Lechard are the other new faces that will have to fight and make the team attain a spot in the postseason. 

“Very happy to be here, to be honest. Very honoured, everyone is excited to be part of this huge stage,” head coach Karim Nesba revealed ahead of the action.

Nesba, himself, is a new face on the team, having been contracted specifically for the BAL season. 

Local contingent 

One of the biggest problems for City Oilers last season was the bench’s failure to keep things moving whenever the first unit was off the floor. 

The crew, which comprises team captain James Okello, Tonny Drileba, Titus Lual, Fayed Baale, Ivan Muhwezi and Allawi Ssenkubuge will have to be more productive to right the wrongs of last season.

“We are definitely excited. We are ready, we are ready to compete and give 100%,” Drileba said ahead of the games.

With the paint presence of Maluach, the selflessness and experience of Miller Jr. and the shooting prowess of Opong, the Oilers will fancy their chances despite the hostile environment expected of the home crowd inside the Hassan Mostafa Indoor Sports Complex.

Up against history

City Oilers will be up against a giant of the sport. 

Al Ahly Basketball Club is a part of the Egyptian multi-sports club, founded in 1907. 

The basketball team, in particular, was established in 1930 and is now 94 years old, making it the oldest basketball team in Egypt.

The team has won the Egyptian Basketball Premier League seven times in its history, the first coming in 1989 and the last in 2023. 

It is the fourth Egyptian club to claim the title seven times following Zamalek, with 15, Al Ittihad Alexandria, with 13, and ِAl Gezira Basketball Club with 11.

Al Ahly also became the second Egyptian side to win the BAL, replicating the exploits of local rivals Zamalek in the first season. 

Basketball Africa League 

Nile Conference 

Friday fixtures 

Al Ahly LY vs. Bangui, 5pm

Al Ahly vs. City Oilers, 8pm 

National Basketball League 

Friday at Lugogo 

Men: UCU vs. KIU, 9pm 

Women: UCU vs. JKL, 7pm