By Charles Mutebi
City Oil were always destined for power and honour. Their arrival in the men’s National Basketball League (NBL) was always the arrival of future champions. But no one expected the success to come so soon.
Not NBL aristocrats like Power, the Falcons and Warriors. Not local basketball experts and fans. And above all, not City Oil.
“There is no way we expected to win the championship,” admitted City Oil’s passionate chairman Mohammed Santur.
“Oh, I can’t even tell you how I feel,” said Santur, overcome with joy in the warm afterglow of City Oil’s 74-62 victory over the Falcons in Game 7 of the NBL Playoff Finals at Lugogo on Friday.
Privately, City Oil hoped their first season in the NBL would end in the playoff semi-finals or, improbably, in the Finals. But everything changed once Mandy Juruni’s side swept the KIU Titans in the playoffs quarterfinals.
“After beating KIU, we realised that there was no big difference between us and the rest of sides in the playoffs,” explained Santur.
“We said, you know what, if we play our cards right, we might actually win this trophy.”
Yet when City Oil lost Game 1 to D’Mark Power in the playoffs semi-finals, it seemed as though the end was nigh.
But Jimmy Enabu, who had missed Game 1 due to illness, returned for Game 2 and City Oil rallied to win the next three games and reach the Finals.
City Oil had already overachieved and in fact few backed them to beat the Falcons in the best-of-seven Finals. The Falcons had more talent, more experience and had proved their mettle by coming through the tougher route.
Stephen Omony and his colleagues would surely be a step too far for City Oil. Not quite. Juruni’s team were fortunate to win Game 1 by two points as they needed the Falcons missed 26 free throws.
But there was little fortune about City Oil’s display in the rest of the series. After all, City Oil had the best guard and big man in the 2013 NBL in Enabu and Kami Kabange respectively. Enabu has blossomed into one of Uganda’s elite players.