KAMPALA (AfroBasket Women 2017) - Seventeen-year old Mellissa Akullu belongs to a new generation of young Ugandan female basketball players that are talented, physically astute and exposed at a young age.
Her resilience even against the best on the continent was evident in her every move fighting for the Black, Yellow and Red stripes on the front of her jersey and indeed it eventually paid off as she emerged the best rebounder tournament with an average of 12.3 rebounds per game.
"It means a lot and it means everything. I guess I had never imagined myself playing for Uganda. It is a once in a lifetime amazing experience," she told FIBA.com.
Uganda lost all their six games against Tunisia, eventual champions Mali, perennial powerhouses Mozambique, Egypt, Algeria and Madagascar but to Akullu this was a learning process and an eye opener.
Uganda is enjoying a wave of refreshing reward in the last two years - qualifying both the senior men and women's teams to the FIBA AfroBasket in Tunisia and AfroBasket Women in Cameroon in 2015 as well as the boys and girls teams to the FIBA U18 Championships this year and now Akullu is dreaming big.
"I want to play for the senior team. I would love that. It would really be very nice," Akullu said.
At AfroBasket for Women in Cameroon last year, Ugandan centre Peace Proscovia emerged as the best rebounder with an average of 12.7 rebounds per game. And Akullu is dreaming of playing alongside her.
"In my long vacation, I hope to play for a club in the National League so that I can keep in shape and keep training and becoming better and learning new things.”
Akullu is grateful to the country's coaching crew. She says, “Being the best rebounder was really a great shock and I did not expect it and neither did my coaches. It means that I must work harder to better my game for an even better award. I just give glory to God and thank my coaches as well.”