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City Oilers: a franchise that changed the outlook of Ugandan basketball

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Winning never gets old and most certainly does not present barbaric acclimatization. That in its entirety speaks testament to the mindset, enduring acustomization, and spree dominance of The Oilers since their inception to topflight basketball in 2013.

They have in the shortest time period gone ahead to win seven successive NBL championships, two FIBA Zone Five Championships, participated at the Africa Club Championships, and earned a whole lot of respect.

The list seems long, but these are merely masterpieces of their glittering artwork for the time in the topflight. There are however no prizes for guessing which one transcends them all, for it isn’t even their conquest of the zone 5 edition in Kampala.

The greater achievement indeed is that Monday Juruni’s side has changed and redefined the requirements and face of glory in Ugandan basketball.

Not only have the Oilers raised the bar, but they have also become the model for success. Even clubs that don’t inhabit their stratosphere look up to them for clues and nuggets of success.

What they have is the blueprint to success and other teams need to replicate this kind of mentality because once you have this, then you have attained something bigger than titles, something unquantifiable.

How it all begun

City Oilers - The Touchline Sports

It has undoubtedly been a ridiculous journey when you recall the casual beginnings of the club. Casual is the word since the Oilers pioneering side largely consisted of retired guns that bonded at Kabira Country Club every after work.

The idea of rejoining the league gained traction when the old-timers realized they still had enough competitive juice to bang with the young Turks.

It was at this same time that their founding directors were toying with the idea of starting a basketball team that would revolutionize local basketball.

This ambition however simply meant that they had to replace their laissez-faire squad with star quality to provide a competitive advantage through their transition from the third division.

This transition was handled seamlessly for two years before qualifying for the elite NBL through their marquee signings Jimmy Enabu and skipper Kami Kabange-who would later leave them for the Rwandese Patriots in 2017.

In their first NBL year 2013, they made the playoffs finals against a star-studied but yet ill-organized Falcon side despite being underdogs against teams like Betway Power and Pemba Warriors.

Their spirited comeback to win game seven in a best-of-seven finals series after losing game one saw them crowned champions under what were clearly unprecedented scenes. The rest has been history ever since.

Seven NBL Championships in Seven Years

It is not every day that you encounter perfection or something close to it. The Oilers have however since 2013 exposed this outrageous and superstitious myth with their mouth-watering dominancy.

After conquering the then defending champions Falcons in 2013 and counterparts Warrior, Power, and UCU Canons in the issuing years, 2017 provided a rather different challenge not quite synonymous to the usual.

This most highly anticipated moment was to finally be presented to the entire basketball fraternity on Friday 5th January 2018 at the Lugogo MTN indoor Arena.

KIU Titans locking horns against the defending champions. Many Titans fans simply considered this milestone a mere figment of their imagination. Their exceptional display in the semi-finals against the Pemba Warriors however suggested this was to be a reality.

The Oilers’ commanding performances in the playoffs that year, most notably the 3-0 sweep against adversaries Betway Power and their maiden performance in the Zone V championships that had earned them automatic qualification to the FIBA Africa Cup Championship in Egypt Alexandria was always bound to disrupt the general playoff finals schedule.

This forced the federation’s hand, pushing the men’s final to 5th ​January 2018. This disruption however had no bearing to their form as this was business as usual for them with no constraint at all what-so-ever.

The rejuvenated Titans side under the stewardship of Brian Wathum did put up a fight through their incredible shooting with Chris Omany and Sudi Ulang but wasn’t sustainable enough to halt the Oilers match to a fifth consecutive championship.

Most Recent

The 2019 championship triumph is the most recent milestone following a tough encounter against a well-coached UCU Canons side with Nick Natuhereza at the wheels.

It is fair to say that the finals were action parked and not shy of drama, passion, and most importantly, competition since the Canons brought the game to the defending champions.

This had many fans thinking, “Maybe, just maybe this could be the time the 6-year stretched dominance comes to an end”. The excitement of this potentially happening had fans fill up the MTN Arena in Lugogo in anticipation of a change in fortunes.

The fight was commendable and so was the passion and zeal but as often said, dominance is contagious, the Oilers found a way to win game seven and wrap up the series for their seventh championship in a row.

FIBA Zone Five Triumphs

Oilers

Uganda earned the right to host the 2017 edition of the FIBA Zone 5 championship in the aftermath of the Oiler’s conquest of the 2016 edition in Dar-es-Salaam to win their maiden Zone 5 Championship.

This in essence meant that Lugogo MTN Area was to play host to strong teams like Eqyptian side Al Ahly, Rwandan Patriots, Kenyan KPA who appeared to come with a serious challenge.

This was, by all means, a serious challenge but Monday Jurun and his side simply knew what was on the line and were prepared to go ahead and get to the ultimate holy grail.

They however required their international players in Darius Pegues – a center to give them balance, Stanley Ocitti, a power forward to provide cover and Jordin Mayes-a point guard who would become the tournament MVP courtesy of his incredible shooting.

It was these three men along with the core of the team with players like Landry Ndikumana, Jimmy Enabu, Ben Komakech, and others that defended the championship on the home ground beating Kami Kabange’s Patriots 86-59.

Shortcomings at the Africa Club Championships

The two outings on the continent are yet to yield greater results in terms of titles but there is at least hope following an improvement in their most recent continental travel to Egypt Alexandria for the FIBA Africa Champions Cup,

They finished 5th in the 31st edition of the FIBA Africa Champions cup, three places better than in 2016, and came home with the fair play award.

They finished 5th in the 31st edition of the FIBA Africa Champions cup, three places better than in 2016, and came home with the fair play award.

What does the future hold for them? 

It is becoming clearer that their dominance in the local league will continue with their counterparts who have limited financial muscle to contend with them. The challenge for them however remains the continent.

About whether they will ever break the jinx and add their most sought trophy to their ever-expanding carbin, The FIBA Africa Champions Cup, remains to be seen.


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