Lydia Babirye: Gazelles Guard Oozing Confidence

Point Guard Lydia Babirye says the Gazelles are “fearing no one” as the 2023 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket reaches its business end.

Babirye, 18, was crucial in Uganda’s shocking victory over 11-time winners Senegal on Saturday at the Kigali Arena.

She scored 11 points in the 85-83 win, including 8 in the quarter in an admirable display for a player who was playing her second game on the National team.

Her performance drew a lot of praise especially from the Gazelles fans across social media.

And Babirye has overnight turned into a household name back in Uganda for a Sport she didn’t want to play in the beginning.

“I was never interested in playing basketball, but my twin sister Lilian Nakato encouraged me to start the Sport because she thought it was fun,” Babirye remembers.

“I kept on refusing but I reluctantly went there for practice just to try it.”

Babirye came to Kampala from Kisoro in 2012 alongside her younger siblings Brenda Kyalimpa and Martha Faith after passing away of their parents.

“I am really thankful that Watoto took us in then, and I am really grateful for the opportunity I have got and how far the Lord has brought us.”

She recounts that her first time on court (Watoto), she was in a dress and sandals.

“I started to go the Court regularly and later I liked the Sport slowly by slow.”

Babirye started to work on her game especially shooting and she got better and better each passing day as her hard work started to pay off when she joined the Watoto Ladies team.

Babirye concentrated more on basketball because it built her as a person and improved her confidence.

Fast forward, in, 2018, Babirye was invited for a basketball camp in Kenya and one of the coaches was a scout for a school in the United States.

“She asked me if I wanted to go abroad and study as I play basketball on bursary! And I was like what? This is crazy. Are you joking? Yes. It was exciting and unbelievable.”

“It was something that I was dreaming of and never thought I would be in that position.”

Babirye then got a scholarship to study and play for the Victoria Christian Centre School where she has been for five years before graduating in May this year.

Early this year, Babirye was summoned for the first time by FUBA for the Zone V Afrobasket qualifiers but she couldn’t honour the National team invite because of her school duties.

“Representing my Country has been one of my Goals and I am really grateful especially to God who has brought me from where he got me from.”

And she has got a chance to play with her role models captain Flavia ‘Flirsh’ Oketcho and Claire Lamunu, at the grandest of stages.

“Playing with them is huge because we used to follow and watch them play when we were still young and I am grateful to be making history with them because they are leaders and great individuals,” Babirye on being on the same team with experienced Flirsh and Lamunu.

“The way they play and control the game you can tell that they have high IQ. They lead and push us. I am privileged to be with them.”

Babirye has also showed that she is the heir to Flirsh’s throne who is expected to be hanging his boots sooner rather than later.

She showed courage and shot like she had ice in her veins on free-throw line when the stakes were high against Senegal.

“I was saying that Jesus, I need to make these free throws, This was really a big game, I just remained focused because I wanted to make them for my nation. I had also prayed before the game for God to lead us.

“I had it in my mind that we were looked as underdogs. They thought they were going to smack us but God came through for us. And I am really grateful for that. This team is amazing, I believe in this team 100%.”

The Gazelles will face DR Congo at the round of 16 of the ongoing 2023 FIBA Women Afrobasket for a place in the Quarterfinal where hosts Rwanda awaits.

“I know that as we move forward, we respect everybody but not afraid of anyone. We are going to put up a good fight. We want to go and give our best, push hard and till the clock is out.”

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