What you need to know:
- Perfect Challengers. On paper, the Namuwongo Blazers have a squad to challenge coach Mandy Juruni’s Oilers. Additions of Saidi Amisi and Joseph Ikong are decent and the two add experience and size to the team.
The last time City Oilers and Namuwongo Blazers met, the latter won 71-66 on court and the former won in the boardroom to have the result reversed in their favour. Blazers had used Geoffrey Soro without completing his registration. That game doesn’t count anyway since the season was later cancelled and everything thrown out of the window.
The two sides meet again today in the opening game of the National Basketball League as seven-time champions Oilers target another successful campaign to make it eight titles in eight seasons. Blazers is one of the sides expected to dare Mandy Juruni’s well-oiled machine. On paper, the Blazers have a squad to challenge Oilers. Additions of Saidi Amisi and Joseph Ikong are decent and the two add experience and size to the team.
“We are ready as a team and excited to start the season,” Blazers tactician Steven Nyeko told Daily Monitor.
The Blazers were smacked by UCU Canons at UCU last weekend but that is water under the bridge. The season starts tonight and they are ready to challenge Oilers.
City Oilers defeated UCU Canons 66-60 to win the UCU Invitational Tournament last Saturday. They exhibited their mental toughness in the game as they stepped up the tempo in the final quarter to silence the home crowd.
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Where there is no Landry Ndikumana, the champions have added Ivan Lumanyika and Juruni is excited by his off-season transfer business.
“They bring toughness that we lacked and can rebound the ball,” Juruni said of Lumanyika and the returning Francis Azolibe. The Nigerian is, however, said to have missed out on registration and can only play after the first round of the regular season.
But in Jimmy Enabu, Tony Drileba, James Okello and the exciting Ruai Luak, Oilers have enough to work with.
Looking beyond the league
When Fuba were launching the season Wednesday morning, Oilers captain James Okello told the press that their targets as a team are way beyond just winning the league.
He was referring to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) which the club has twice failed to be part of.
“We no longer compete for just this league but beyond,” Okello said.
That is the kind of mentality Juruni’s charges come with as the season tips off. The fact that teams like REG from Rwanda and Cobra from South Sudan are part of BAL and Oilers are not cannot sit well with the powers that be at the club.
They forfeited their place at the last round of qualifiers citing fear of an upsurge in Covid-19 cases in South Africa.
The other teams showed up, competed and qualified for the second season of the ongoing elite competition.
For Oilers to have another chance of fighting for a ticket at the third edition next year, the journey starts with winning the domestic league and tonight is the first step in that direction.
Searching flying start
KCCA Leopards will have to be on top of their game all season to challenge JKL Lady Dolphins and UCU Lady Canons.
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The hard work starts this evening in a clash with KIU Rangers and forward Rebecca Aanyu is confident the Leopards can roar this season.
“We have prepared well and are confident the results will come,” she said ahead of the season.
Rangers will be encouraged by their second-place finish from UCU last weekend.