11 October, 2022
27 November
Patriots vs City Oilers
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Can Oilers come together and build a different BAL qualifying experience?


DAR ES SALAAM (Tanzania) - Experience has doled harsh lessons for the Ugandan club City Oilers, especially on the continental basketball stage.

In the first edition of the Road To BAL qualifiers, at the Elite 16 stage, the Oilers fell way short in the third-place playoff game against Mozambique's Ferroviario De Maputo in 2019 in Rwanda.

Two years later, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt them a cruel blow, as they could not travel to South Africa for the Elite 16 tournament.

A player who has been in the thick of those experiences is the Ugandan club's team captain and forward, James Okello. The 30-year-old, speaking to FIBA.basketball on Wednesday at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam, expressed disappointment at the team's qualification runs.

"Of course, being a part of those teams that did not qualify for the last two editions was sad for myself and the team, but hopefully this time we will get the job done," the Ugandan international player said. 

"We want to qualify for the BAL," Okello added ahead of the preliminary 2022 Road To  BAL qualifiers, which begins on Friday at the Benjamin Mkapa Indoor Stadium.

Okello is confident that the Oilers can emerge from the qualifiers. His confidence stems from how the recently crowned  national league champions earned their title. The nine-time league winners battled their way past Namuwongo Blazers in a gruelling seven-game series three weeks ago.

Okello  feels their title defence has done wonders for the team's spirit in preparation for the qualifiers.

"Our confidence is high. We are ready for this tournament and have been preparing for it this entire year. That seven-game series helped immensely to prepare for what we are about face here in Tanzania. We have high expectations of ourselves as we want to go beyond the qualifiers," said the 1.93m (6ft4in) forward.

The Oilers captain says the team for this year's qualifiers is balanced and will have what it takes to progress through each stage of the qualifiers.

"The team is good. We have experienced players. I feel like we will be competitive because we have played many games and that has helped in building our chemistry. We have good shooters and post players. I think we will be one of the teams to look out for in these qualifiers," said Okello, who finished as MVP for the third time in his career.

The Oilers will  play their opening game against Zambia's Matero Magic on Friday and will face Burundi's Urunani the following day. The Ugandan club will conclude their campaign against the host's Army Basketball Club on Sunday. Okello feels their opposition will bring their best to the court on those match days.

"This time around, the teams are ready for this tournament. They all beefed up their squads with their local talent and players from overseas. As the Oilers, we know that things are not going to be easy. We will approach each game with the correct attitude and always be ready," concluded Okello.

 As Okello says, the matches will not be easy in the Road to BAL tournaments,  but the Oilers have the experience and have playing personnel they believe can navigate them  over the upcoming hurdles. The question is, can they come together and build a different experience this year?