Judith Nansobya is one of the most recognizable faces in Ugandan basketball but there is more to her life than just sport, writes Fred Hidula.
On July 15, Nansobya reached the highest point of her career when she was crowned the 2016 Uspa female basketball player of the year after guiding UCU Lady Canons to league success.
For anyone who has followed the sport, it was a fitting moment for the 30-year-old, whose career has grown by leaps and bounds beyond expectations.
What makes her special is that much as she is at the peak of her powers, she is also pursuing academic excellence while also inspiring many youngsters.
A national team star since 2011, Nansobya has won all there is in Ugandan basketball and prior to the Uspa gong, she had already scooped several individual honours and topped the league scoring charts in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2015. The 2015 season also saw her win her first title with the Lady Canons.
She was also voted the regular season Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2010 and 2013 while playing for Kampala International University ladies.
Rite Imanishimwe, a teammate at Lady Canons, describes Nansobya as a natural leader in the team. “She is really hardworking and an inspiration to many,” notes Imanishimwe.
Team skipper Vilma Achieng says Nansobya is the most dedicated player in the team. “She is the star of the team yet she is also one of the humblest and most devoted,” Achieng says.
Nicholas Natuhereza, the Lady Canons coach, says Nansobya is the most hardworking player in the country.
“She is one of best shooters to grace the sport locally and she has taken advantage of the environment to improve,” he says.
“She simply needs to improve her game at the national team level and who knows, she could even end up playing professionally abroad.”
Interestingly, basketball success has seen her overcome financial constraints to study for free right from A-level and at the moment, Nansobya is in her second year pursuing a master’s in Information Technology at Uganda Christian University.
Nicknamed Ayo during high school days by students who couldn’t pronounce her name, Nansobya is in many ways the epitome of sports and academic success.
Nansobya comes from a sporting family and was an athlete right from her primary school days.
“Besides basketball, I played football and netball. Most of my siblings too play sports but I never took sports seriously,” she says. “I never thought basketball would bring me this far in spite of the fact that my father was an athlete and played football at top-flight level while my mother also played netball,” she recalls.
She, however, says her parents motivated her to seriously focus on basketball after attaining a sports bursary while studying at Najja High School between 2005 and 2006.
Admittedly, she didn’t know much about the sport given her towering 5-11-foot frame, she easily outmaneuvered opponents. Nansobya quickly specialized as a point guard although she occasionally played as a shooting guard.
It was in 2008 that Nansobya made her breakthrough when she joined top-flight side KIU Rangers. She was an instant star but soon realized that balancing academics and sports was a huge challenge.
“It wasn’t easy to juggle the two [sport and academics] but I would train in the morning and have classes in the evening,” she reveals. “Over the years I’ve mastered how to strike a balance between the two.”
She, however, remains optimistic that she will keep playing even after school despite her desire to acquire a formal job as well.
Nansobya reveals that working closely with her coaches has greatly improved her game especially in terms of driving the ball to make a basket, when to shoot and also her confidence is better that before. She passes similar skills to colleagues in the team as well.
Born October 10, 1987 to Livingstone Nsobya and Margaret Nantongo of Namutamba, Mubende district, she is the sixth born of the nine children.
She studied at Ggaba Modern primary school before joining Eagle’s Nest SS for her O-level from 2001 to 2004 and later completed her A-level at Najja High School.
Upon her completion of secondary school, Nansobya joined KIU to pursue a diploma in Computer Science from 2008 to 2010. In 2013, she attained a bachelor’s degree in Informational Technology from KIU.
In 2015, she joined UCU and is due to complete her IT master’s later this year. On a personal note, Nansobya is happily single and wants to finish her studies before serious dating. She advises aspiring sports personalities to ensure they balance academics and sport as a way to succeed in life.
“I plan for my time appropriately so that I do not miss out on any of the two,” she says.
Beyond books and the court, Nansobya spends he leisure time watching movies and hanging out with friends because this relieves her of stress.
She also loves eating chicken and rice as her best dish although she adds that a balanced diet is vital for any athlete’s career success. For now, the sky is the limit to what she can achieve.