Kampala Rockets new signings: John Dombo (City Oilers), Emmanuel Okumu (City Oilers), Francis Kasinde (Power), Charles Ochera (Tropical Royals), James Omara (Tropical Royals), Pol Mas (Free Agent, Spain)
Kampala Rockets will be making their debut season in top flight when the National Basketball League gets underway this weekend.
The Rockets are champions of Division One having beaten Rezlife Saints in the final series last year in December.
The side has set sights on retaining their status in NBL.
“It is so exciting for both players and me as a coach to see that the team is at the top flight,” Kampala Rockets coach Moris Otedro told The-SportsNation.
Otedro says that playing in NBL comes with an opportunity of developing him further as a coach and it’s a good challenge for his players as well who will rubbing shoulders with the the best in the country.
Last season in Division One, the Rockets finished second behind Livingstone with a 21-7 record.
They then eliminated UMU Flames in the Quarters before beating Nkumba Marines to not only reach the final but also book a ticket to NBL.
“The journey to NBL was not an easy one if I may say,” Otedro added.
“So many challenges we faced as management and as a team.”
It has been a series of attempts for Rockets whose best chance to earn NBL promotion was actually a season before last season.
“First of all, Covid affected us so much. We had assembled a very good team in 2020 but when Covid came the entire team was lost.”
It’s strong to note that some of their players left to go for further studies in USA like Dheiu Matet, Cyril Mpungu and Timothy Mugamba.
Peter Cheng joined Burundi while other foreign-based players fled the country.
“So, when the league resumed we had lost our best performers. We were left with young and upcoming kids who at that time did not have enough experience to compete.”
And consequently, they lost to Tropical Royals in the semis to miss out on a place in the top flight.
The following season (2022), Kampala Rockets had to start almost from scratch.
And they brought in new young skilled players like Gideon Kasasa (formerly at UCU Canons), Benjamin Kawumi, Ola Samuel, Suka Fadul among others.
And the rest like they say, is history.
Otedro credits the then Coach Washington Katamba Ismail Goodies and the manager Omer Selli for the “guidance and management” rendered to the team.
“Without their management skills the team wouldn’t have won the championship. They managed the team like a family who were their for each other amidst all the predicaments faced.”
Per the initial NBL fixture, Kampala Rockets will start with eight-time champions City Oilers, and it just can’t get any bigger than that!
With the bottom two teams after the regular season going down, Rockets want to stay in the league.
“Our immediate target for this year is strictly to survive and stay in the top flight, others will be additional,” Otedro added.
“One of our objectives as a club is to groom young players in the country and that’s why rockets is full of young kids who played last year.
“We still maintained the same. Most of the players are the same young energetic kids that we believe can compete in the top flight.
The Club made six additions, including City Oilers duo Emmanuel Okumu and John Dombo to bring in the experience.
Other new additions are Francis ‘Odom’ Kasinde, Tropical Royals duo of Charles Ochera and James Omara.
Spanish player Pol Mas is the other addition to the team, but he may miss the opening games of the first round due to Work commitments.
“We shall continue to push for that (league survival). I am very confident in my signings and my old players to meet the target this season.”
Gideon Kasasa, Garang Kur, Adut Mayer, Samuel Ola and Fadul Suka have been retained from last season’s squad while Peter Madol returns from Victoria University.