The men’s National Basketball League (NBL) appears predestined to end in a ninth successive championship for City Oilers.
The Oilers are already in the semi-finals awaiting the winner from the UCU Canons and D-Mark Power quarterfinal. Dominant as they had been in the regular season with 21 wins in 22 games, Oilers made light work of the Kampala Rockets, sweeping them 2-0 in their best of three quarter-final tie.
However, although the JKL Dolphins remain favourites in the women’s draw, considering that they have won all their 11 fixtures in the second round, that race is more unpredictable. KIU Rangers, JT Lady Jaguars, KCCA Leopards and UCU Lady Canons remain formidable opponents.
“The women’s playoffs are more competitive than the men’s,” Emmanuel Kiguyi, the assistant coach of UCU, said. Kiguyi added that it is a situation which has been built over time with more women’s teams acquiring top players.
In addition, Julius Lutwama, the coach of both KIU Titans, the men’s team, and KIU Rangers for the women, did not differ with Kiguyi. Lutwama explained: “The benchmark in the women’s league has for the last few years been JKL. They have a number of national team players with big experience from the recent Afrobasket. But we have studied them and gone out to find talent that matches theirs.”
However, although the Rangers lost to JKL both times in the regular season, the former have improved significantly, to suggest that another meeting would be very close. Notably, Rangers, who lost five of their 22 regular season games, beat some of the teams, which beat JKL. For example, the Jaguars.
That makes the possibility of any team falling to another, likely. Maureen Amoding, the star guard of the Jaguars, who have a decisive game three against Magic Stormers to contend with, is in no doubt that the women’s game is more to look forward to. It is a while since the competition in the women’s game, when the likes of A1-Challenge, Amazon, MUK Sparks, Lady Bucks and KCCA Leopards were on equal fire footing 15 years ago.
Amoding said: “The improved coaching across the board has creat- ed closer match-ups. But also, many team managers have put women on contracts, which has enabled them give the game more time in terms of training.”
Previously, it has been the men’s teams mainly that contracted the players, and maybe one or two women’s teams. For the latter particularly, that was a preserve of JKL. Not anymore. Furthermore, Kiguyi said there is more talent emerging in the women’s game from the schools.
The top female basketball-playing secondary schools (Buddo SS, Nabisunsa, St Noah and St Mary’s SS Kitende) use predominantly Ugandans unlike those for the male. A host of male players in secondary schools are from Kenya, DR Congo or South Sudan, according to Kiguyi. Actually, Uganda’s under-age women’s teams have as a result done better than the men’s in recent times.