The return of the National Basketball League might be uncertain but City Oilers ability to go for an eighth straight title is a given.

Oilers have made the league their own since qualifying to join the division in 2012, with other teams left to fight for second place.

It would be strange to count out the defending champions, even more so after they have been the last team standing for the last seven seasons.

I have already discussed the two teams – UCU Canons and JKL Dolphins – that I believe are in position to challenge for the 2020 title if the league is played when sport is given the greenlight in the country.

Now it’s time to look at the seven-time champions, assess their roster and plan, and why I believe they are a lockdown away from winning an unprecedented eighth title in as many years.

Signings

The extent to which the City Oilers needed to add more size was apparent during last year’s playoffs. With Francis Azolibe and Stephen Omony out for a season having sustained injuries last year, Oilers needed to make reinforcements.

Ariel Okall fights for a loose ball with Francis Kasinde during a league game between Falcons and Power in 2015 Credit: John Batanudde

Adding a strong and athletic big man who is an elite defender was always going to be a priority and they went for Kenyan vet Ariel Okall whose work ethic defines what Oilers are all about.

“Okall is one player who is adding a lot to the team in terms of energy, rebounding and aggressiveness,” Oilers coach head coach Mandy Juruni says of Okall.

Michael Makiadi Credit: Franklin Kaweru

In also came another Kenyan big man Michael Makiadi. Unlike Okall, Makiadi can stroke some threes and mastered his midrange shot. He is an excellent rebounder of the ball with a lot of experience having previously played for KIU Titans and Power.

“There are somethings that he does as a player that we admire. And looking at the injuries we had, we were lacking with the bigs so obviously, we had to beef up in that department.

“We thought Makiadi would fit in well because he knows Ugandan basketball and so far he is doing so well,” Juruni says of the former Patriots (Rwanda) center.

Joseph Ikong Credit: © Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE

There’s a pretty good chance we have been taking Joseph Ikong for granted during the course of his career because of, at times, his playful self but the forward has a high understanding of the game. Ikong, who can play from one through to three, brings vast experience to Oilers and is a clip on high volume shooter who completes a roster that is chasing an eighth title.

Rising stars Emmanuel Makuei and Ruai Gatyan as well as John Dombo complete the new additions for Oilers.

“We have added in a few young players who are talented and we want them to grow in the team as older players phase-out,” Juruni says of youngsters.

Old Guard

Every other season, City Oilers maintain a chunk of their core players and it has not been different this year.

Jimmy Enabu, Tony Drileba, Ben Komakech, Ivan Muhwezi, James Okello and Landry Ndikumana are still with the side and will provide the foundation for the new players on a roster that seems more egalitarian offensively.

Tony Drileba Credit: Franklin Kaweru

Over the course of the season, Enabu, Drileba and Komakech should all get plenty of chances to isolate, run pick-and-rolls, take catch-and-shoot jumpers and more. Long story short, opportunities abound for Oilers perimeter players with a fully functional frontcourt.

The loaded frontcourt might be even more helpful on the other end with length in abundance. While Ndikumana and Makiadi are a little slow, they can switch and guard all over the floor. The versatility up and down the roster is intriguing.

Every potential roadblock, every potential flaw, however insignificant or glaring, is critical in a title pursuit but this Oilers roster looks complete and probably the strongest they have assembled, with all due respect to the 2015 team.

It will be totally shocking if they don’t bag title number 8.

Franklin Kaweru is the Editor in Chief of Kawowo Sports. He is an ardent basketball enthusiast.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Please let us know what you think