Lokwameri left big stage, now returns as champion and MVP

Lokamweri lifts the trophy. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

Zainah Lokwameri, Maureen Amoding and Muhayimina Namuwaya are household names in Ugandan basketball but were not part of the frenzy as UCU Lady Canons and JKL Lady Dolphins faced off for the title.

For those who focus mainly on the National Basketball League (NBL) in Uganda, they might have been wondering what happened to some of the top players that made headlines for top teams in the country.

Zainah Lokwameri, Maureen Amoding and Muhayimina Namuwaya are household names in Ugandan basketball but were not part of the frenzy as UCU Lady Canons and JKL Lady Dolphins faced off for the title.

The trio were watching from the side, awaiting their own opportunity to play, albeit in the lower division.

The two-year Covid-19 gave birth to a new team expected to challenge the top order of women’s basketball, JT Lady Jaguars.

Playing in the Fuba Division One for the first time, the Lady Jaguars completed a 3-0 sweep of Kampala University to win the championship unbeaten. That came after achieving the ultimate target of progressing to the top flight.

But how did players of Lokwameri’s calibre end up playing lower division basketball and why?

“It was an easy decision because of the Covid-19 break from basketball. It was almost two years without playing basketball so when we discussed with coach Nick (Nicholas Natuhereza), we looked at the levels of fitness and he advised us to start from zero and get back up when we are ready physically and mentally,” Lokwameri told this paper.

“And also, most of the players were from UCU so we had a thought process of creating another option for a competitive team in the NBL in the future. And every time I would see the other players who had agreed to play, the decision became much easier,” she added.

Lokwameri returns to the big stage next season as a Division One Champion and MVP.

Natuhereza is the team’s technical director and recruited mainly players who were through with school at the Mukono-based university. Rhoda Naggita, Annet Among, Brenda Kayaga and Sarafina Drichuru all transferred from UCU to Lady Jaguars.

The Lady Jaguars were not done yet. They added Namuwaya, Amoding, Sarah Ageno and Esther Marion to form a team that would walk through the division to gain promotion at the first time of asking.

Great season

The side won all 15 regular season games played, defeated Watoto 2-0 in the semis to gain promotion to NBL before crowning the season with a 3-0 sweep of Kampala University in finals.

“We had an awesome season. As a team, we started off preparations of strength and conditioning early that went for about two months and those sessions were incorporated in the mid-season training so I would say we had a well planned out season from the beginning.

“We have a crop of quality players who have experience and have won championships in NBL and Zone V as well. So, we generally had the right mentality from the start. We also have good coaches who made programs for the season to enable us to compete.

The team is coached by UCU Canons veteran guard Sudi Ulanga.

Focused from start to finish

With the kind of squad assembled, it was inevitable the side would earn promotion to the top flight. It was a matter of when now if. But the players and management set their targets and winning each and every game was one of those.

“From the start I was sure we would go unbeaten if we brought our A game in every game and surely it became a reality.” Lokwameri, a mainstay in the Gazelles’ team said.

“From the start of the season, the coaches made it clear that losing a game was unacceptable and we should play good basketball and be able to execute our systems and also the fitness levels were to be monitored all through the season.

“And we also building team chemistry for the future.”

In the end, the Lady Jaguars were too good for the rest of the field and will probably pose similar challenges for the top division sides next season.

“I think we were advanced for that division as a team, however, it was competitive for the other teams against each other, though. There are a couple of upcoming players down there.

Coming for NBL

JKL Lady Dolphins had set the pace for women’s basketball in the last few years but fell to a resilient UCU Lady Canons side in the finals to miss out o making it three titles in three seasons. UCU, on the other hand, keep losing players after their scholarships and the Lady Jaguars will fancy their chances when they start life in the top division.

“We have not yet heard from the coaches and management about expectations for next season but NBL is a familiar ground for most of us. It's a bigger challenge. The constant expectation is to be competitive and shake some tables.

“In my opinion, our team is well put if we look at the depth of it all however, I cannot rule out that management will make a few adjustments to make us even stronger.”


Age: 27

Height: 5’10

Position: Small forward

Club: JT Lady Jaguars

Previous clubs: UCU Lady Canons, JKL Lady Dolphins

NBL titles: Three (2015, 2016, 2017)