By Charles Mutebi
National Basketball League (Starts April 12)
IT may take a few months into the 2014 National Basketball League (NBL) before we know which club made the most significant moves in the transfer market.
What seems clear for now is that last year’s best team are also the most purposeful in this year’s player market. Reigning NBL champions City Oil concluded their major dealings in the transfer market weeks ago while their rivals are still active, looking for pieces to complete their puzzles.
The player market has its fair share of obstacles and it should not be surprising that teams are struggling to announce new arrivals unlike City Oil, who don’t lack for the most important item needed to facilitate transfers.
Yet City Oil’s focused transfer dealings are not simply down to their deep pockets, they are also the result of having a clear cut plan of action, a characteristic that led them to last year’s unprecedented success.
Of City Oil’s five signings so far, only superstar Ben Komakech and versatile veteran Geoff Omondi, can be deemed major acquisitions. Emmanuel Okumu, Michael Otieno were acquired from Division 1 outfits Gulu Hawks and Kampala University while Adam Kakuru was basically rescued from relegated Proline Heaters.
Considering that City Oil may lose the irreplaceable Kami Kabange to a potential move to Qatar, the club’s relatively modest business in the player market underlines a unity of purpose that is rare in the NBL.
Of course, it helps to have City Oil’s resources but that is not the only reason perennial title contenders like the Falcons, Warriors and Power appear to be trailing the champions.
Record champions Falcons have not made their acquisitions, if any, public. Ever since last month’s press conference, where Friday Kagooro announced the dawn of a new era with his ascension to the chairmanship, all that has come out of the Falcons has been news of exits.
Besides Omondi’s move to City Oil and coach Gad Eteu returning to the Warriors, Herbert Akita has also been released. Then there is news that Abdullah Ramadan and Phillip Ameny will be unveiled as Power’s new signings sooner than later.
Power, who say they have underperformed for the last two years, lost Komakech but if they sign Ramadan, Ameny and… Ivan Enabu from the Warriors, they would be in position – at least on paper – to challenge for the title.
The Warriors are reluctant to release Enabu especially after apparently letting go of Sam Gombya (to KIU) and failing to secure the return of Norman Blick and Cyrus Kiviri. The Warriors are trying to resign Joshua Etalu and are still exploring the idea of signing Akita.
Then there are the UCU Canons, whose season is arguably hanging on the hope that FUBA will reduce Desmond Owili season-long ban.
All these ifs and maybes are, of course, the balanced diet of the transfer window but in doing their business early, City Oil have given coach Mandy Juruni ample time to sort out team chemistry and player-combinations.