KAMPALA (FIBA Women’s AfroBasket Qualifiers 2019) – Five years since their inaugural and only qualification to the biggest women’s basketball showpiece in Africa, Uganda are anxious to return to the high table.
The Gazelles, as they are commonly known, will be looking towards playing in front of their families and friends with relentless support in their quest to conquer East Africa.
Uganda Captain Flavia Oketcho, who herself is the most decorated player in Ugandan basketball with a career stretching 18 years, is eager to lead the Gazelles and compete with the very best but they will face a tough contest from the reigning zonal champions Egypt, a stubborn Kenyan outfit and the returning youthful Rwandan side.
“PLAYING AT HOME IS ALWAYS A PLUS. THE FIRST TIME WE HOSTED THE ZONE 5 QUALIFIERS IN 2014, WE WERE CHAMPIONS AND QUALIFIED AND WE ARE HOPING FOR THE SAME OUTCOME AND TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THAT LUCKY CHARM. THE POWER OF THE HOME CROWD IS SENSATIONAL.”- Oketcho
In an exclusive interview with FIBA.basketball, Oketcho admitted that, “Dedication, hard work, motivation, finance, support and advice is what it will take for us to qualify. It will take the nation to take us there. We need all the help we can get.”
“After our win in 2014, countries like Egypt went back to the drawing board, did their home work and came back with a winning strategy. Now it is our turn, everyone has to put in the work and we have to be able to deliver results.”
The Gazelles will be looking towards Finland-based Claire Lamunu who was named among the All-Finish League First Team and the Best Forward. Her dominance on both ends of the court set her apart as she led Kouvottaret to third place in the regular season and Uganda will be hoping she replicates this form at home in the qualifiers
Together alongside her 3×3 teammates, the 2018 FIBA Africa Women’s Champions Cup Tournament Five Jamila Nansikombi aka Zama, Ritah Imanishimwe and Sarah Ageno will provide Uganda with the necessary experience needed to make the final leap.
Oketcho, who was part of the 2014 squad that wrote history in Kampala defeating Egypt and Kenya, is optimistic that the same feat can be achieved by this current crop of players who are also hungry for success.
She said, “Playing at home is always a plus. The first time we hosted the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2015 Zone 5 Qualifiers, we were champions and qualified and we are hoping for the same outcome and taking into consideration that lucky charm. The power of the home crowd is sensational. We cannot leave out the pressure this will bring but as players we will work twice as hard to deliver results.”
“As a national team, this is what we look forward to, a successful bid to be ranked among the best in Africa and the world. The FIBA Women’s AfroBasket offers this kind of stage and the one that we can use to showcase the amazing talent we have, so to us, qualifying is serious business.”
The FIBA Africa Zone 5 Qualifiers will take place from May 24-31 as Uganda attempts to join Zone 4 champions Cameroon, reigning champions Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique with the latter four getting automatic qualification as the 2017 semifinalists.