The long wait is over. The National Basketball League is back! The 2021 season gets underway this Saturday at KIU Court.
We have previewed the new season, looking at every team’s weakness and strength, including their squads and our predictions.
Who can stop City Oilers? Are Nam Blazers real contenders? What does Betway Power have in store? Will the Titans walk the talk? Can UCU Canons take everyone by storm again?
Storyline – Can They Overcome Shooting Blues?
All looks well for the Dolphins this time after a couple of new signings. There is balance at the back and front court. Some of the new additions will take time to get used to the physicality of the league but they seem to have plenty in the armory, on paper. The surprise return of Ivan Lumanyika and signing of Philip Ameny adds an edge in paint (literally if they are not injured) but they may have to find a reliable shooter if they are to top games.
*Key Player – Ivan Lumanyika. If he decides to play, he is unrivalled. An elite big man who has delivered a quarter of what he can do.
*Previous Season: 4th in regular season (15-7), lost to Power in Quarters.
JKL Dolphins Players – Yesman Bushiri, Wacha Joseph, Balwigwire John, Ochera Innocent, Egau Jonathan, Namake Brian, Ochen Jude, Malwal Dier, Makala Libe, Milambu Christian, Lumanyika Ivan Jumba, Amenyi Phillip, Isiko Derrick, Lupembe Djouf
Projected Finish – Semis.
Storyline – Inexperience Biggest Undoing: KCCA Panthers will be taking part in their third Season in top flight. They lack championship experience within their squad and haven’t done any better in the transfer.
*Previous season: 8th (7-15), Lost to UCU Canons in Quarterfinal.
*Key Player – Francis Mbuyi found stability at KCCA having been deemed as surplus to requirements at KIU. He will still be their source for points.
*KCCA Panthers Players – Emmanuel Odongkara, Victor Alleni, Wilson Otweyo, Paul Ereng, Daniel Samson Ojoro, Richard Ongom, Enock Kizito, Mark Bamutende, Daniel Gaaki, Sydney Chasimba, Martin Buluma, Francis Mbuyi
Projected Finish – 10th.
Storyline – How Far Can ‘Hardware’ Take UPDF?
UPDF Tomahawks are back to NBL after a season in lower division. They return with almost the same squad they left with, and a couple of new additions. They took the second division by storm and will be targeting for a place in the playoffs. They have consistently been one of the best defensive teams because of their playing style – They pose with size and very aggressive and compact which makes them hard to breakdown.
*Previous Season: They were promoted to NBL as champions.
*Key Player – Felix Mukunzi. Mukunzi, who plays Handball as well, will be their source of points alongside new former Our Saviour player Wilberforce Pirwoth and Warriors player Michael Othieno.
*UPDF Tomahawks Squad – Moses Muhumuza, Felix Mukunzi, Daniel Emong, Ferdinand Odama, Jonathan Obukunyang, Michael Kojo, Wilberforce Pirwoth, Brian Opiyo, Sulaiman Bbale, Bernard Okumu, Andrew Gang, Edward Ijo, Peters Ssenfuka, Douglas Kagambo, Remo Jafar, Moses Olobo, Herman Matovu, Michael Othieno
*Projected Position – Quarterfinal
Storyline – Are they still hungry for more?
They have won the league since 2013. Seven-time defending champions. Is there any hunger left? Like every start of the season, rival fans keep thinking that this might be the fall of the Oilers dynasty. With injuries, they faced their biggest challenge last season. They have played many games in the past years and almost their entire squad was part of the Silvebacks squad in Alexandria and Tunisia for Afrobasket Qualifiers. They have been excellent in the market with the acquisition of proven Joseph Ikong, Kenyan Mike Makiadi and Fans favourite Caesar Kizito among others. They will stumble in the playoffs, but will be unstoppable in the playoffs where it matters the most.
*Previous Season: Finished second in regular season (19-3), beat Ndejje at quarters, eliminated Warriors in Semis and later beat UCU Canons in final.
*Key Player – Landry Ndikumana. Jimmy Enabu might be the brain of this team but its the Burundian who is the beating heart. A big man with a good short, a silent killer. His versatility will be required a lot this season as he may be played as a three to accommodate both James Okello and Makiadi in the starting five.
*City Oilers Players – Luak Rual, Tonny Drilleba, Emmanuel Makuei, Ben Komakech, Okoth Fidel Oduorz Michael Makiadi, Ghedi Abdihakim, James Okello, Jimmy Enabu, Landry Ndikumana, Joseph Ikong, John Dombo, Ivan Muhwezi, Caesar Kizito
*Projected Finish – Finals
Ndejje University Angels
Storyline – Life without coach Walker Obedi
Ndejje Angels will be without coach Walker Obedi who is currently in the States. He was a feared figure on the touchline as he kept his players checked for performance, the umpires alike. With Coach John Omondi stepping in the role, there will be no fear factor from the opponents. They lost the duo of Gauthier Badherra and Salim Kisilu to Betway Power and these will be key absentees as well.
*Previous Season: Finished seventh in regular season (11-11) before falling to City Oilers in Quarters.
Ndejje Angels Players – Cikom Munbai, Mayom David, Oketch Kimambo, Atula Ronald, Nyang John, Muhamereho David, Raymond Okille, Trevor Mutyaba, Hudson Odeke, Herold Alinaitwe, Jude Ochwo, Moussa Sebi, Jel Ring Malek
Projected Finish: 10th
Storyline – Coach Natuhere, Man with magic wand.
Well as Oilers Mande Juruni will lay claim, but coach Natuhereza is undoubtedly the best coach in the division. How he organised this team of then unknown players into title contenders last season remain a mystery. They have retained almost the entire squad that lost to Oilers in the final beside David Deng Dikong. And with the return of experienced Sudi Ulanga from KIU Titans, who joins Jerry Kayanga, Ateer Isaiah and Fayed Baale, their strength remain their shooting ability.
*Key Player – Fayed Bbale. Set the league alight with his dazzling moves the previous season. He has grown each day and was summoned for the National Team (Silverbacks) for the Afrobasket Qualifiers. He will be a joy to watch once again.
*Previous Season: Finished top in regular Season (19-3) and lost to Oilers in the finals
*UCU Canons Players – Isaiah Mabeny Ater, Sudi Ulanga, Caesar Adoke, Cranmer Wamala, Fayed Baale, Raymond Iriama, Ibanda Lwabaga, Titus Lual, David Okello, Nyong Akok, Rogers Dauna, Abraham Isyagi, Fadhil Chuma, Peter Ssenfuma, Jerry Kayanga, Hassan Ssentamu
*Projected Finish – Semis
Storyline – Blendy of Tested And Unknowns
The Sleeping giants start the season as outsiders for the playoffs, and the ball is in their hands to prove doubters wrong. The side will bank on new signings, especially Brian Ssentongo, Emmanuel Ateng and late addition of Derrick Katumba to hurt opponents but lack of quality in their depth will be their biggest undoing.
*Key Player – Douglas Uwizera. Promised a lot in the beginning and delivered less, blame it on injuries. He will be their main man if he steps on court.
*Previous Season: Finished 10th in regular season (4-18) to miss playoffs.
*Falcons squad – Abdul Ntale, Dickson Asiku, Vinnie Jurua, Henrison Mbazira, Derrick Olama, Trezor Murongani, Edrine Walujjo, Emmanuel Ateng, Bbosa Wafula, Andrew Opio, Gerrard Ayiko, Arthur Wanyoto, Emmanuel Mwesigwa, Douglas Uwizera, Shaffy Gaston, Brian Ssentongo, Derrick Katumba.
*Projected Finish – 9th.
Storyline – Can The Bench Deliver?
KIU Titans pose with intimidating quality in their starting five but its their bench that will determine the ceiling of this team. Their starting five is likely to have Michael Bwanga, Faisal Aden, Denis Balungu, Oscar Muge and Stanley Mugerwa. They look to be contenders on the paper and with a good front office (administration), they can march Oilers toe-to-toe. However, the bench of Ahmed Kassa (formerly at Kampala University), Peter Obleng and the industrious Collins Kasujja among others will be required to step up.
*Key Player – Faisal Aden. The franchise player they needed and best signing of the window. Comes with plenty of experience but does the Somali still have anything left in him?
*Previous Season – Finished sixth in regular season (13-9), before losing to Warriors at quarter final.
*KIU Titans Players – Peter Obleng, Denis Balungu, Joseph Dramaza, Sam Agutu, Stephen Oryem, Elvis Mutebi, Collins Kasujja, Henry Okoth, Stanley Mugerwa, Michael Bwanga, Oscar Kengocha, Francis Kasinde, Ahmed Kassa, Faisal Aden Jama
*Projected Finish – Finals
Storyline – When Will They Start Gelling?
Power released a core of key players including Joseph Ikong. The rebuilding process has started with new recruits that include blend of youth and experienced. There is surely talent in the team but it remains to be known when they will start attain that chemistry.
*Key Player – Stephen Wundi. The new signing returns to the club and will look to stretch the court with his long range shots. Amisi Saidi brings aggressiveness and will be another one to watch.
*Previous Season: 4th in regular season (15-7), Beat JKL in Quarters before losing to UCU in semis.
*Betway Power Players – Arion Osama, Shivachi Brian, La Joie Mubalanyi, Guddi Nasser, Isaac Afidra, Patrick Seduge, Elvis Sentongo, Baderha Basheka Jean Gauthier, Kisilu Salim, Tony Wafula, Adnan Kabuye, Batingira Joel Maurice, Wundi Stephen, Amisi Saidi Danny
Projected Finish – Quarterfinal
Storyline – Contenders Or Pretenders?
There seems to be a semblance of organisation for the new comers who unveiled a couple of players and sponsors prior to tip off. They look to be everyone’s favourites to dethrone Oilers this time round but with an experienced coach in Stephen Escodata Nyeko, its a long way to go. A strong backcourt but with questions on who should be the facilitator. Can they live to the billing?
*Key Player – Francis Azolibe. Hard to tell whether he has fully recovered after that knee operation but the Blazers took a gamble on him. He already shown everyone what he can do while at Oilers.
*Previous Season: Promoted to NBL as runners up after losing to UPDF Tomahawks in the final.
*Nam Blazers Players – Chris Omanye, Daniel Juuko, Paul Odong, Julius Lutwama, Emmanuel Okumu, David Deng Dikong, Geoffrey Soro, Daniel Manoja, Francis Azolibe, Blaire Wandya, Chuol Nyuot, Syrus Kiviiri, Stephen Otoa
*Projected Finish – Quarters
Note: Projected Finish is our expert prediction for where the team will finish at the end of the season. Also, the league was not played last season due to Covid19. This year, the league will be played at KIU and UCU courts.