Flavia Oketcho during the 2015 AfroBasket game against Gabon Credit: FIBA
Flavia Oketcho during the 2015 AfroBasket game against Gabon (Photo: FIBA) Credit: FIBA

The last time Uganda hosted the Zone 5 FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers was in 2014. Then, both Silverbacks (Men) and Gazelles (Women) qualified for the continental championships for the very first time.

Five years since their only qualification to the biggest women’s basketball showpiece in Africa, the Gazelles are hungry to return to the high table.

And like it was was in 2014, they will have to achieve the feat in a building so familiar, Lugogo Indoor Stadium.

Uganda will hosts the FIBA Africa Zone 5 Qualifiers from May 24-31 in a bid to join Zone 4 champions Cameroon as well as African champions Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique who secured automatic qualification as the 2017 semifinalists.

Playing in front of home fans, the Gazelles will be looking to conquer the region but will face tough competition from the reigning zonal champions Egypt, a youthful Rwandan side and Kenya.

Gazelles captain Flavia Oketcho believes it is Uganda’s turn to qualify for the continental championship but it will take the whole nation.

“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,” she told Fiba.basketball in an interview.

“After our win in 2014, countries like Egypt went back to the drawing board, did their homework 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.

“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.”

Oketcho and Finland-based Claire Lamunu are the obvious players who were part of the 2014 campaign expected to be included on the roster.

“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.”

Jamila Nansikombi who was named in the 2018 FIBA Africa Women’s Champions Cup Tournament Five, prodigy Jane Asinde, Ritah Imanishimwe, Zainah Lokwameri and Sarah Ageno are the other players that are likely to be tasked with delivering Uganda to the promised land.

Franklin Kaweru is the Editor in Chief of Kawowo Sports. He is an ardent basketball enthusiast.

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