AfroBasket Women 2015, a new challenge for Uganda ace Sharon Karungi
INDIANA (AfroBasket Women 2015) - Sharon Karungi was crucial in helping Uganda's national team qualify for the AfroBasket Women 2015.
The 1.88m forward, who three weeks ago wrapped up her college basketball career at Valparaiso University, says it is time to plan for and embrace the challenge of facing Africa's best teams and players.
AfroBasket Women 2015 will take place in Cameroon from 24 September to 4 October.
Karungi, who in May will graduate with a degree in Business Marketing, is just waiting on definite communication, and, in her words, she will be very glad to represent her country again.
As a result of her fruitful national debut, the 24-year-old is now recognised as one of Uganda's key players along with Claire Lamunu and Rebecca Akullo.
Last September, Uganda were facing elimination after losing the first two games against Kenya and Egypt, respectively, in the FIBA Africa Zone 5 qualifier played in Ugandan capital of Kampala.
Karungi stepped up her game when her team needed her most to change for the better the destiny of the Ugandan 'Gazelles', who will be make their debut at AfroBasket Women.
Holding that gold medal yessssss am a champion team Uganda pic.twitter.com/Qbgkijfp5Y— SHARONGETBIG33 (@sharonGetBig33) September 28, 2014
She came up with 23 points and 13 rebounds as the Gazelles trounced Egypt 78-45, increasing their chances in the tournament.
On the final day of the competition, eventual tournament MVP Lamunu poured in a game-high 24 points, Akullo added 11 as Uganda upset Kenya 64- 61 to secure double qualification for the AfroBasket Women 2015 as well as for the All-African Games in the Republic of Congo.
Karungi prefers to give credit to her teammates for the historic qualification.
"It's very interesting how we all worked hard each day to make it work," she told FIBA.com.
"I had definitely not practiced with the team at all but the way I was helped to know the plays even when I found myself making mistakes the team work and communication was really amazing. I learnt a lot and at the same time I felt rewarded."
Kenya finished second in that qualifier, while Egypt finished bottom of the group.
That was an unforgettable challenge that needs to continue in Cameroon, where 12 teams will battle for a place at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Only the winner of the African championship qualifies directly to the Olympics, while the second and third-place will play in a 12-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
AfroBasket Women 2015 is going to be a new challenge that we will never forget, and at the same time, a challenge where I believe that we will learn a lot - Karungi
"For me personally [AfroBasket Women 2015] means learning more about the game and making sure that I grow my talent, and definitely exposure.
"It also means working my very best and making sure that I can contribute to my team as much as I can."
The Ugandans will travel to Cameroon as one of the lowest ranked teams.
And, the prospect of taking on continent powerhouses such as reigning champions Angola, tournament hosts Cameroon, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique, is a huge source of motivation for Karungi.
"These are very competitive teams. Teams that have so many international players," she said.
"But, again, every team is unique in its own way and Uganda will be that team. I believe Uganda is strong and determined and we shall make an impact.
"I know and believe Uganda has a team that is ready and strong to compete for a spot in the Olympics."
The Kampala native moved to the USA in 2011 to pursue her academic and basketball aspirations.
Peters, Karungi Named November Athletes of the Month http://t.co/FMBqFQrba2 pic.twitter.com/hl4NBRpjic— Valpo Athletics (@valpoathletics) December 10, 2013
She earned her associate degree in Business Administration from Northern Oklahoma College before joining Valparaiso in Indiana in 2013.
Karungi was the Valpo Crusaders' second leading scorer during the 2013-14 season, but an ankle sprain forced her to miss significant time on the sidelines in her senior year.
In one of her best outings of the past campaign, the forward posted 13 points and 10 rebounds, but the Crusaders fell 78-57 to Detroit.
As she reflects on her college career, Karungi sees a lot of positives she has taken away from it.
"My college basketball career has definitely contributed a lot to my basketball career.
"I remember when I first came to the United States I could shoot the ball but I had no basic skills, for example knowing that it is important to follow through.
"Learning such basic skills and knowing the importance has definitely changed my game. It's become better and a lot more faster and quicker and even improved my basketball IQ. Not only thinking on the court but off the court too."