It has been quite a journey travelled for Jamila Nansinkombi thus far. From a kid who ran after balls that went out of bounds to winning the National Basketball League and playing at the FIBA Africa Women’s Clubs Champions Cup, Nansikombi’s trip to the top is one to admire.
Zama, as she’s fondly known, vividly recalls where it all started for her in the Eastern town of Tororo.
“I did a lot of sport as a kid because I wanted to stay fit and active,” she says. “When I was getting done with Primary School, I needed a sport to do while in High School. I was not a fan of Volleyball or Netball, I loved them but I didn’t see myself playing them for a career or something like that.
“But then there was Basketball. I had seen it but I hadn’t tried it. I decided one time to go to the court that was two miles away from home and I would walk there every evening just to watch the big guys play and then I would be the girl that picked up the ball every time it went out but I would get these quick ‘hey, throw it back’, ‘give it back little girl’ from the guys and just like that I got interest to want to learn how to play.”
At the beginning, it really didn’t matter what type of ball she was using but Zama sure knew two things had to happen.
“I used to use this small Adidas ball because I didn’t have any knowledge of the ball to use but I knew I had to bounce the ball and at some point, I knew I had to get close the basket and throw the ball up.
“In my P.7 vacation, I played a lot. It was just a little girl playing until my S.1 when I joined Rock High School then I officially wanted to be in the school team, practiced with people who played better and the interest kept growing,” she recalls.
It’s from Rock High that Nansikombi got to know that Basketball is more than just playing. It can get you through school.
“I worked harder and harder every day because our coach always told us that basketball was just more than just playing, it can be a lifetime income, it can be an education strategy to pay for your school.
“I wanted to make my mum proud of me so I decided to work hard and in the second term of S.1, I got an offer for a bursary to play basketball and by the end of form one when we went to play nationals I got offers from schools in Kampala,” she says.
Nansikombi’s first stop in ‘Kampala Schools’ was at St. Michael High School in Mukono-Sonde.
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“At St. Michael I met girls that played much better than I did. I was motivated by agemates, a little grown-ups, and coaches. It was a whole new thing that I wanted to be part of because at that time, it was just basketball and school, and away from school it was just basketball.
“I played too much, I wanted to learn too much went through different coaches hands learning a lot of things and I didn’t stop to want to learn more.”
Nansikombi moved to Kibuli Secondary School and went to St. Mary’s Kitende for her A-Level before joining JKL Lady Dolphins to have a feel of league basketball.
For the 6’0” forward, it has always been a learning process and that’s what drives her in the game as she continues to soar.
“I don’t feel I’m good enough ever, I’m not good even now. I always want to learn more and more. I’m challenged by new people I meet that play better or have different knowledge about the game.
“I know basketball has helped me find me. There is nothing I have been fully committed to as much as achieving my game, as learning as wanting to learn.
“The fact that I consider myself never to know enough is what makes me better everyday.”
Like many young athletes, Nansikombi who is entering her sophomore year at Moberly Area Community College in the United States wants to go pro, whether in the WNBA or not.
“Yeah, with the person that I am (I will go pro). I’m not saying it’s obvious (that I will enter the WNBA Draft) but it’s not bad to ever want to get somewhere,” she told Basketball 256.
“If something is meant to be yours and you go at it and don’t sit back, it will be yours.
“The love I have for the game, I really work every day and I believe I will really be in the right place whenever I have to even if it never happens with the WNBA or it does. Because of my hard work, I will play wherever.”