By Charles Mutebi
UCU 77 City Oil 65
UCU 81 KIU 58
Third place playoff
KIU 56 Ndejje 38
Angels 24 Canons B 22
ZUKU Basketball League
Makerere 50 UMU 40
Makerere 76 UMU 17
How do you solve a problem like Desmond Owili?
It is a question Owili’s fans, team-mates, opponents, coaches and local basketball body FUBA have asked themselves, several times.
Over the weekend it was the turn of UCU Canons’ opponents as Owili helped the hosts win their preseason invitational tournament, defeating defending champions City Oil 77-65 in the final.
Owili’s impact was telling, helping to contain City Oil mega star Kami Kabange as UCU broke off in the fourth quarter to avenge last year’s final defeat.
But even as Owili rattled the rims with his power dunks, a cloud of uncertainty hung heavy in the Mukono air. For all of his enviable strength, Owili is powerless in the face of the one-year ban he incurred for allegedly shoving FUBA referee Peter Kirabo during last year’s National Basketball League (NBL) playoffs.
FUBA came down hard on Owili after Kirabo made an official complaint to the FUBA disciplinary committee.
Yet the ban never laid the matter to rest, firstly because Kirabo was the accuser and sole witness in the case, something UCU always said left the allegation standing on weak legs.
Secondly, and this was reinforced with the applause Owili received when he made his debut at the Friday Night Lights last week, is the argument that forcing Owili out of the NBL – which is effectively what the one-year ban is tantamount to – may not necessarily be a smart move.
From the standpoint of the NBL’s profile, Owili is a unique asset, with an imposing stature and in-game thunderous dunks that have no equal. Like him or hate him, the Kenya centre is a star attraction.
In other words, he is not the kind of player you want to lose. But at the same time discipline is not option for any league with serious ambitions of growth and Owili has had his fair share of transgressions since joining Ugandan basketball four years ago.
All this adds up to a conundrum for FUBA and president Ambrose Tashobya hinted that the basketball governing body are exploiting the idea of adjusting the ban as they look for a win-win situation.
“We have heard that UCU have appealed the ban and we are going to look at it and see,” said Tashobya, speaking to The New Vision from Turkey where he is attending a FIBA meeting.
It’s a delicate balance but one that, perhaps, must be struck.
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Solving the puzzle that is Desmond Owili