City Oilers start Road to BAL

Season Six. Richard Mwebaze of Matu FC dribbles past SeeFar’s Nickson Turyasingura during a previous season. PHOTO | COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Mbarara High School’s annual Chaapa League returns for a sixth season with stricter measures following a Coronavirus-enforced break. 
  • Since its establishment in 2017, Chaapa League has been a major contributor to organising social and economic networks for all participants and partners. 

Five of the 12 players selected by City Oilers head coach Mandy Juruni for the first hurdle of the Road to Basketball Africa League (BAL) know exactly how it feels to be so close yet so far.

Jimmy Enabu, Tonny Drileba, Ben Komakech, Ivan Muhwezi and James Okello were all part of the team that was left in tears after a failed campaign last time out in Kigali, Rwanda.

Oilers had finished second in the first round and went into the second phase as one of the favourites to book a ticket to the finals.

They, however, ended up losing to Ferroviaro de Maputo in the third-place playoff and were sent packing.

As the Ugandan champions go again, starting with the first round that tips off today in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, confidence is high in the squad.

Oilers need to finish as one of the two top sides from their group that features opposition from Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi.

Brave Hearts (Malawi), Kurasani Heat (Tanzania) and New Stars (Burundi) are the other teams in Group E and Oilers have three days to face all and progress to the next round or forget about BAL.

“We have a more experienced team now with players who played there last time,” Juruni told Daily Monitor as the team departed for Tanzania yesterday.

“We are strong both with the bigs and guards. Our bigs are versatile. They can play in and out,” Juruni added.

The team’s experience will be complemented by the youth in the squad as well as the additions scouted outside the organisation.

Luak Ruai and John Dombo are the two new kids on the block while Titus Odeke has a bit of experience from his travels with the Silverbacks. John Balwigaire and Jerry Namdi Okwonko are the major additions to the team and Juruni is confident they will deliver. Guard Enabu, who captained the team that failed at the last hurdle in 2019, understands what’s at stake.

“We’ve always assembled good teams to compete, we’ve trained well so our performance at the tournament is what we can use to gauge how good we are now compared to before,”  he said.

The 2019 first round was also held in Tanzania and Oilers came second behind Rwanda’s Patriots despite serious injuries to Steven Omony and Francis Azolibe.

The two injuries left Juruni and Oilers with just Okello and Landry Ndikumana as the bigs in the final game against Patriots.

Of the additions made to the team, Enabu is happy with what he has seen in training and expects a lot of each player.

“They play both ends of the ball, and can stretch the floor. We now have more scoring options.” 

The top two teams from the tournament will progress to the Elite 16 from which six qualify to join champions of  Angola, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia.

Twelve teams will compete in the finals.

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