Evelyn Nakiyingi says she feels lucky to be part of the final roster for the Gazelles team to represent Uganda at the 2023 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket in Kigali, Rwanda.
The tournament is due July 28 to August 6.
“It’s always an honour, this time round I feel lucky to be part of the squad, this is a bigger level, more competition, very good team and players, so I am very lucky,” Nakiyingi told The-SportsNation.
Nakiyngi has had to overcome a knee injury which she sustained during the Zone V Qualifiers early this year.
“I did a lot of rehabilitation for it. I just needed to build my knee tissues and stuff like that. I was working on that for like two months and I’m glad I am back to play for my club as well.
“The knee is in a better place, am glad I can work and walk on it. I have to take precautions but I am good.”
The JKL Lady Dolphins player has expressed her readiness to ball, despite the expected limited time she may get given the competition in the back court.
In the Point Guard position, Captain Flavia ‘Flirsh’ Oketcho is understandably the first choice given her experience – She is the only member of the team to have played at Afrobasket.
Coach Albert Antuna may also consider Lydia Babirye ahead of Nakiyingi while the versatile Small Forward Jannon Otto can as well take on the role everytime Flirsh is called to the bench to re-energize.
“I don’t think there is need to compete, she (Flirsh) is doing a good job, this is just a team Sport, we all want the best for the team, we are not the same players, if she is doing some things better than I can do, then I will support her.
“When I step on Court even if it’s five minutes I will do my best to service the team.”
Nakiyingi says that the Gazelles have put in a lot of work and trust the team’s chances in Kigali.
“I know what we are doing as a team, we are working hard, we are working together as team, we are trying to build the team chemistry, if we keep on doing the right things, listen to our coaches, rest our bodies, prepare well, we will get the results.”
Nakiyingi has branded Afrobasket as “my biggest stage ever.”
The stage will hand her an opportunity to play on the Continent having missed the FIBA U18 Africa Women Championship in Cairo, because of School commitments.
“I expect to do better in Kigali. Everyone would be excited to participate in the biggest tournament on the continent. I am glad to be part.”
From the beginning….
Nakiyingi’s Father worked at Ndejje SS and that gave her the opportunity to play at the Schools Court.
However, she had to play the game with her brothers as a kid given then.
“It was the only Sport that was available and it was the only thing we could do in our Free time,” Nakiyingi recounts.
“I grew up playing basketball mostly for fun and later joined High School when I started competing and helped the team qualify for East African games with Ndejje around my Form Two.
It was at Ndejje, coached by Nelson Onyuta, where Nakiyingi caught the eyes of many including St Mary’s SS Kitende who scouted her before she joined the Kitende-based School in her Form Five.
At Kitende, joining she won a couple of accolades including the Nationals and East African title then under Coach Chris Kijambu (RIP) and Boniface Okello.
Later, she joined JKL in 2018, with the side still new in the Women National Basketball League.
The transition was seamless given that she was meeting former Kitende Students including Hope Akello, Jamila Zama Nansikombi among others.
“It was a big group with competitive players and I needed to compete for minutes,” Nakiyingi added.
“I had to jump from high school stardom and start from scratch, but when you get in an environment where there is a lot of competition, I had to push myself.
“I did a lot of morning workouts and I got lucky that some of my JKL teammates were also interested – and that is Peace Nakirijja, Hope Akello, Maureen Atulinda among others at Namboole.
“We would have gym sessions as well. It was an interesting journey all together. When you are competing with people up there, you have to put in the work.”
Nakiyingi added that she has gotten a lot of opportunities out of basketball. She has not paid tuition starting in Senior Five and even now at Victoria University.