• July 3, 2020

NBL Preview: Are Nam Blazers Contenders Or Pretenders?

 NBL Preview: Are Nam Blazers Contenders Or Pretenders?

From Lower division with love: Nam Blazers will be hoping to sit on the throne.

Transfers:

Players Out – Peter Cheng (Kampala Rockets), Emmanuel Makuei (City Oilers), Ruai Gatyang (City Oilers), Vicent Yiiki (in USA).

Players In – Bhan John, Emmanuel Okumu, Daniel Manoja, Fahmy Ssebatindira, Paul Odong, Syrus Kiviiri, Michael Kojo

Preview:

Nam Blazers battled from a game down to beat Old Tymers last season in the best of three semifinals, the 2-1 win, that saw the side win the decider by just a point, confirmed their place to the National Basketball League.

Coached by Stephen ‘Escodata’ Nyeko, Nam Blazers lost 3-4 in the finals to UPDF, but they had already achieved theirmain target – Playing in top flight.

They are here, and have already shown their intent if we are to go with their transfer business.

The Blazers will be regarded as ‘Betway Power in disguise’ after signing four former players of five-time champions. They will be banking on their new signings to make a big statement on their first attempt in the league.

Formed in 2015, Namuwongo Blazers are the only team in the top flight that bear a name of the region they come from. Hope the identity produces fruits in the short run.

“Our target is to avoid relegation,” said coach Esco. “Playoffs will be an added advantage.

Esco added that there is pressure for him to deliver at the big stage after all the marquee signings. He will be on test in the the team’s first game on March 22 when he faces his former team, the KCCA Panthers, a team he played for last season.

Related – Former Power Players Join Nam Blazers

Franchise player – Syrus Kiviiri. Nam Blazers media photo

Key Player – Syrus Kiviiri. Guard Fahmy Ssebatindira might be the fans favourite but it is Kiviiri who will be more integral for the new side. He averaged 17 points for Power last season just after joining from Warriors. He will be looking forward to lift the newbies.

Probable First FiveFahmy Ssebatindira, Syrus Kiviiri, Emmanuel Okumu, Derrick Katumba, Chuol Nyuot.

How Far Can They Go?

A lot of positives before the season tip-off for the Blazers but the time to live as advertised starts now.

They have indirectly won many fans who have followed the new signings from Power, and a big fan base from Namuwongo is expected to follow suit.

On a good note, Blazers will not face last season’s finalists City Oilers and UCU Canons until after seven opening games in the first round which gives them an opportunity build early momentum.

There is some good quality with their squad and the return of Joseph Otto who missed out last season can be seen as another signing.

The young tactician Stephen ‘Escodata’ Nyeko.

Many will see the team’s weakest link as Coach Esco and are not far away from the truth for a coach who will be taking on his first assignment on the touchline in top flight. The fact that he guided this side to NBL will be a source of confidence but the top league comes with it’s new challenges.

They have set their target to surviving relegation, which is highly achievable if we are to go with their squad on paper.

Prediction – A Playoff Spot.

What You Need To Know About Nam Blazers:

Namuwongo blazers is a community based basketball team. It was established to provide youth within and outside this community with a variety of learning concepts in basketball, life skills, travel opportunities, and to positively motivate the participants while promoting self-respect, education and countless possibilities.

The team is a non-profit community based entity providing extra-curricular activities to the youth of Namuwongo and Uganda at large.

Namuwongo is a Kampala neighbourhood that was predominantly low income in the 1960’s through the 1980’s. However, as the population of Kampala has exploded in the early 2000s, high-end business has moved into the area and raised its profile. Namuwongo’s proximity to high end Kololo and Muyenga, as well middle class Nakawa and Bugolobi, has ensured that it will not be mired into the low end of the neighbourhood spectrum.

0aul Odongo ‘Mcgyver’ (left) trying to stop City Oilers’ Tonny Drilleba during the UCU Invitational Tourney. Batanudde photography

Nam Blazers First Round Fixture:

Big game to look out for is when they face Betway Power on May 3, 2020 at YMCA.

*March 22 – KCCA Panthers (KIU), 3:30pm
*March 28 – Sharing Youth (Lugogo), 1:30pm
*April 11 – UPDF Tomahawks (Lugogo), 5:30pm
*April 19 – JKL Dolphins (YMCA), 1:30pm
*April 25 – KIU Titans (YMCA), 5:30pm
*May 3 – Betway Power (YMCA), 1:30pm
*May 6 – Warriors (Lugogo), 6:30pm
*May 10 – UCU Canons (Lugogo), 5:30pm
*May 15 – City Oilers (YMCA), 6:30pm
*May 24 – Falcons (Lugogo), 3:30pm
*May 27 – Ndejje Angels (Lugogo), 6:30pm

Brian Kawalya

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