KAMPALA. It is not until the technical meeting which often occurs a day before the championship, that organisers are able to confirm participating teams at the Fiba Zone V Clubs Champions Cup.
The fixtures and draws are consequently announced after that meeting for the competition whose winner qualifies for a place at the Fiba Africa Club Champions Cup.
As the tournament returns to Kampala after five years, the lead up has had a familiar feel.
Host club City Oilers have had trouble confirming this year’s participants with Egyptian side Al Ahly that is expected to rival the reigning champions, keeping the hosts guessing about their participation.
Nevertheless, City Oilers who were granted hosting rights by domestic basketball governing body Fuba had by press time budgeted for 19 teams from seven other regional countries namely, Ethiopia, Somalia, Egypt, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda . The week-long tournament that starts tomorrow is being bankrolled by the Mandela group and their partners Linglong and Enoc in addition to Stanbic bank that announced a Shs100m partnership.
The favourites: Al Ahly
Should they make their way down in Kampala; the reigning African club champions will be ranked as favourites to clinch the only spot for a return to the continent’s showpiece club tournament.
In Ibrahim Al-Jamal, Ahmed Al-Salawi and Muhannad Al-Sabbagh, they have three players who were part of the national team that was eliminated in the quarterfinals of Afrobasket championships earlier this month.
Also in their ranks is Tarek Taha El-Sayed, one of City Oilers’ tormentors at the 2015 edition in which Gezira another Egyptian side, edged City Oilers 75-73 in Kigali.
Uganda’s representatives: City Oilers
Having controversially lost out to Gezira in 2015, the four-time national champions went one better blowing out Kenya’s Ulinzi 72-49 in last year’s final.
This earned them a place in the continent’s premier club competition in which they finished ninth as Gezira won the title. While Kami Kabange has since left, experienced forward Stanley Ocitti returns and will be complimented by A’Darius Pegues who was part of the national team Silverbacks’ recent trip on the continent.
The pair will also have the company of guard Robinson Opong Odoch, one of the Silverbacks best performers at Afrobasket making an appearance at Lugogo.
The trio in addition to the ever green Stephen Omony and experience gained by Jimmy Enabu, Jonah Otim, James Okello and Ben Komakech leaves the Oilers in a position to count themselves on equal or better footing than any team.
The five-time domestic league champions seem at their most organised period in ages. This however might still not be enough to get them a title.
Willy Nijimbere a two-time winner of this competition will add more clout and experience with his versatility while Ivan Lumanyika should also greatly improve their front court.
Rwanda will field three teams but it is the presence of former Oilers’ forward/centre Kami Kabange that will attract the most attention when he turns up for a familiar looking Patriots team.
Former KIU Titans coach Henry Mwinuka also boasts of former Warriors guard Sedar Sagamba, Aristide Mugabe and Lionel Hakizimana with their team’s addition bound to create a feel of a national team clash should they encounter City Oilers.
Kenya Ports Authority are the women reigning holders and boast of Georgia Adhiambo who top-scored for USIU in last year’s championships in Tanzania.
Also on their roster is Brigid Nanzala who helped Eagle Wings to finish third in the African Championships in Morocco in 2015.
They also have Congolese imports Blandine Ndaya and Yolanda Ngoi who have played for APR Rwanda and top teams in Congo and Gabon.
UCU Lady Canons
Domestic league champions UCU will seek to achieve what they failed when coach Nick Natuhereza led them to a third place finish at the previous edition in Tanzania last year.
They retain largely the same side including Judith Nansobya, Ritah Imanishimwe and centre Vilma Achieng.
Their perennial rivals KCCA Leopards have appeared the better team this season and are currently on a 13-game unbeaten domestic league run despite losing former captain Flavia Oketcho.
Burundian guard is a more than able replacement Cynthia Irakunda alongside Sylvia Nakazibwe and Maureen Amoding as they seek to improve a 3-3 sequence last time out.