Friday, July 28
•Nigeria Vs DR Congo
•Mali Vs Uganda, 3:30pm
•Rwanda Vs Ivory Coast
•Cameroon Vs Mozambique
Uganda Women’s National Basketball team, the Gazelles, will be targeting an upset when they face off with Mali in their opener at the 2023 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket at BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.
The game will mark Uganda’s return to Afrobasket, a tournament competed for by top basketball nations on the continent.
The Gazelles last played at Afrobasket in 2015 in Cameroon, and have since missed the three previous editions in 2017 (Bamako), 2019 (Dakar) and 2021 (Yaounde).
- Read: Evelyn Nakiyinji wants to make her minutes count
The Gazelles qualified for this event via a Wild Card after finishing second at Zone V Championship where they lost to Egypt in the final at Lugogo.
This will be Uganda’s third appearance at the Afrobasket stage after their debut in 1998 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Best Roster Ever?
There is a common belief shared by almost basketball enthusiasts in the Country that the current Gazelles roster is the best ever assembled.
In 1997 Kenya, Uganda lost all their four games terribly on their debut – Kenya (117-36), Mali (140-31), Senegal (150-45) and Cameroon (122-57).
In 2015, Uganda beat South Africa 55-43 in their only group win before overcoming Algeria 75-73 in the classification.
Only Flavia ‘Flirsh’ Oketcho, on this 2023 roster, was part of the Gazelles team in Yaounde in 2015.
Moniica Siima, Judith Ayo, Sylvia Nakazibwe, Rebecca Akullo, Maureen Amoding, Sharon Kirungi, Muhayimuna Namuwaya, Peace Proscovia, Martha Soigi, Risa de Lujiter Vicky Ntale Nassolo were also part of the team.
Ntale is now the team manager of the Gazelles.
This current squad mainly comprises of foreign-based players, with five local based players all coming from two-time league champions JKL Lady Dolphins – Flirsh, Brenda Ekone, Rita Imanishimwe, Evelyn Nakiyinji and Hope Akello.
Jannon Otto, a naturalised US-born player leads the foreign-based contingent.
Jane Asinde, now at University of Texas, had a good last season with Wichita as she was named on the All-Conference third team after she averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Experienced Claire Lamunu, Melissa Akullu, Lydia Babirye, Abby Priscilla and Maria Najjuma are the other members of the team coached by Spanish Albert Antuna, Nicholas Natuhereza and Mavita Ali.
And it could have been a different story as well if Jamila ‘Zama’ Nansikombi (Did not honour the invite) and Victoria Mukisa (injured) made the squad.
How do Uganda Compare against Mali?
The Gazelles are in Pool C alongside two Continental giants in 11-time winners Senegal and Mali who win it in 2007.
It’s a big ask for Uganda to beat any of the two sides, but the side will bank on their underdog status to pose a real challenge.
Mali were beaten finalists in the last edition against Nigeria, and finished third in both 2017 and 2019.
A podium place is all they will be settling again in Kigali for a side ranked 27th in the World and second on the continent.
This team was at the 2022 FIBA World Cup in Australia and that says much about their experience.
Their quality has never been in doubt with a couple of stars led by Sika Kone who plays in Spain.
Mariam Koukibaly and Sika Kone have towering heights at 6’3″, and it’s that size that will give Uganda all the trouble at either end of the court.
•Group A – Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda
•Group B – Cameroon, Guinea, Mozambique
•Group C – Mali, Senegal, Uganda
•Group D – DR Congo, Egypt, Nigeria
The twelve (12) teams are divided into four (4) groups (A, B, C and D) of three (3) teams each.
Each team will take on the two (2) opponents in its respective group in one-leg game.
The top teams in each group will advance directly to the Quarter-Finals.
The teams ranked second (2nd) and third (3rd) will play the qualification round for the Quarter-Finals.
Qualification For The Quarter-finals
After the group phase, the teams ranked second and third will compete in a qualifying round for the Quarter-Finals in knockout matches as follows:
2nd A x 3rd B; 2nd B x 3rd A; 2nd C x 3rd D and 2nd D x 3rd C.
The winners will qualify for the Quarter-Finals.
The winners of the Quarter-Final advance to Semi-Finals, while the losers will play the classification games for the 5 – 8 Places.
The classification game for Third-Place and the Final will be played on the last day of competition.
Also, the two finalists will qualify for FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT) taking place in February 2024.
What they said:
Gazelles coach Albert Antuna: “We have been longing to start this championship, I really feel we had good preparations. We are ready and it’s time to enjoy and compete. We are going to face two top teams on the Continent. We are going to enjoy the experience and also leave everything on Court. We want to make people back in Uganda feel proud.”
Gazelles Captain Flavia Oketcho: “We are ready to rumble, we have had fantastic preparations, right from Kampala to Kigali, we have had a chance to test the court and all I can say is that we are ready, prepared and as good as we can be.”
Possible Starting Five
Flavia Oketcho, Abby Priscilla, Jannon Otto, Jane Asinde, Melissa Akullu
How To Watch
The games will be broadcast live on StarTimes – Sports Life Channel
Those online, can watch the Women’s AfroBasket on the COURTSIDE 1891
Best of Photos
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