John Balwigaire is most remembered in local basketball for his role in helping the Silverbacks qualify for their first ever Fiba Afrobasket Championship.
His incredible shooting saw Uganda overcome neighbours Rwanda to qualify from the Zone Five just behind Egypt in 2014.
At the championship in Tunisia, Balwigaire travelled with the team but was not able to play due to documentation hiccups.
He was considered a naturalised player by Fiba and Uganda had to choose between him and Brandon Ssebirumbi, another Ugandan player categorised as naturalised.
With Uganda limited in size back then, coach Mandy Juruni chose Ssebirumbi’s size and that was it for Balwigaire.
Even thereafter, with players like Brandon Davies and Ishmail Wainwright still on Silverbacks books, Balwigaire has not had the opportunity to represent Uganda again.
The guard resurfaced on the local scene when he signed for JKL Dolphins before the season was interrupted by Covid-19.
Now, he will have the opportunity to play continental basketball after City Oilers added him to their roaster ahead of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) qualifiers.
Making Oilers deep
Balwigaire, alongside UCU Canons and Silverbacks forward Titus Odeke, have been training with the Oilers and will add quality and depth to Juruni’s side that is desperate to make it to the final tournament this time round.
“The two make us deep as a team,” Juruni told Daily Monitor after the team’s session on Saturday. “Both are good offensive players and have experience.”
Balwigaire is a two-way player expected to do more than just shoot the ball for Oilers while Odeke adds rim protection and rebounding to the side.
The Oilers let go of Joseph Ikong and Michael Makiadi while Kenyan forward Fidel Okoth is reported to have left for Oman. On top of Balwigaire and Odeke, the Oilers plan to add another big man and a guard before the first round starts next week.
The core of James Okello, Jimmy Enabu, Tonny Drileba, Ben Komakeck and Ivan Muhwezi is still intact and will be looking to make amends this time round.
The Oilers are in Group E with Bravehearts of Malawi, Kurusani Heats of Tanzania and Burundi’s New Stars. They start their campaign in Dar el Salam, Tanzania, between October 26 and 31.