Juruni enthusiastic about leading Rwanda’s Kepler

MANDY Juruni, the renowned Ugandan basketball coach, has made a name for himself as one of his country’s greatest coaches. His success at City Oilers recently led to him being lured away from a club he led for a better part of a decade.

As he helped build the Oilers into a Ugandan powerhouse, Juruni, who has won ten national league titles, also qualified the team twice for the continent’s premier club competition, The Basketball Africa League (BAL). However, he will not lead the Oilers to their second BAL appearance after he accepted a two-year deal to coach Kepler University, recently promoted to the premier division of the Rwanda Basketball League.

The surprising announcement of Juruni’s departure from the Oilers came after he helped the team punch their ticket to BAL Season 4 in Johannesburg in late November.

Mandy Juruni at the Road To BAL Elite 16
Mandy Juruni wants to build Kepler into a competitive team. Pictures: The BTO and FIBA

Juruni, a five-time league winner with women’s team JKL Dolphins, reflected on his time with the Oilers, how The BAL has elevated basketball on the continent and his new position. The Road To BAL Elite 16 Division East tournament marked the end of Mandy Juruni’s journey with the Oilers, where he started as a player-coach and then transitioned to head coach.

While at the helm of the Ugandan giants, Juruni says he experienced a personal evolution. “Being a part of the club’s development for 10 years has been amazing, I have grown as a person and coach,” said Juruni. “Some of the players who came in with me in my first year have also grown and are a part of the team’s core.”

Being at the club for as long as he did, Juruni says leaving the Oilers was hard, but he expressed confidence that the club’s success will continue even without him at the helm.

“It was not an easy decision, but I am going to cherish all the good times I had with the club,” he said. “We achieved a lot, and I am proud to leave the club with the respect that it deserves, not only in Uganda but also in Africa. I do not doubt that they will continue to grow and continue to win.”

 

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Juruni, a former head coach of Kyambogo Warriors, understands the value of The BAL for young athletes and clubs across the continent.
He says, “for an African kid playing back home, you are now playing for something. You will know that even if I do not make it to America or Europe, if I play hard with my club, there is The BAL to play for, and that is a good platform for young African athletes.”

Juruni turned the focus to his new club, Kepler and getting to coach in the new hub for basketball in Africa. He expressed his excitement at leading the promoted Kepler in their debut season.

Kepler will face tough competition from heavyweights such as Rwanda Energy Group (REG), The BBC Patriots, and champions APR BBC, the latter bound for this season’s Basketball Africa League (BAL). “I am excited to be here and coaching in Rwanda. They have a very good and competitive league. I am excited to be a part of that,” said Juruni.

Mandy Juruni at the BAL Nile Conference
Mandy Juruni says he grew as a person and coach at the Oilers.

He also outlined his mission at the university club. Juruni says he wants to work on the players’ attitude and enhance the club’s structures for the future.

“Kepler is a new entrant in the league, and there is a lot that we need to do to be competitive against the best in the country. One of the things I need to do is develop the program so that we can have a strong team,” said Juruni. “We have to work on the players’ confidence so they can believe in themselves… And that they can compete against the best in the country.

“My job here is to get a competitive team. One that we can build on. The players here are young, energetic and ambitious. I am optimistic that we will have a very good season.”

Juruni can be justified in having high hopes for the upcoming Rwandan season – his track record for building a team and delivering success speaks for itself. His enthusiasm for the job could also be the right tonic Kepler requires to one day be among Rwanda’s top teams.

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