There are talents one exhibits that determine their position in different sports.
For football, someone good at scoring goals plays as a striker, and a very good passer of the ball is slotted into midfield.
For 15-year-old Doyin Bakare, her ability to shoot made her a perfect fit for the shooting guard position on the basketball court.
“When I started basketball, the first thing I worked on was my shots,” six-foot Bakare said. “So, I have this great shooting ability, so when any coach sees me, they want me to play as a shooting guard, not point guard.”
The SS2 student at Friendly International School in Karu, Abuja spoke about how she fell in love with the game at the age of 11.
“Ever since I was little, I had wanted to participate in sports, and the first game I was introduced to was basketball when I was 11. First time on the court, I just fell in love with the game, and ever since then, I have been playing basketball,” she told PUNCH Sports Extra.
After this, she started training with a friend and her ability drew the team’s coach to her, who invited her to join the female team, but it wasn’t always going to be easy on the court at first.
“I had a friend who was always going to the court to train, so, I decided to follow him to the court one day. When I saw people playing, I was interested, so I went back the following day, and after some few days training with them, my friend’s coach said I should come and join the female team.
“When I started training, playing basketball was not easy, it was a lot of work, but my coach would encourage me, telling me that I was new, and I could go places from the way I trained and with the kind of love I had for the game,” Bakare told PUNCH Sports Extra.
At 12 she won her first award.
“In my first year of basketball while playing for the City Chiefs in Abuja, I was awarded the most improved player on the court by my coach in 2020.”
As a shooter, it is no surprise that Bakare’s favourite basketball players are Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Landerneau Bretagne Basket’s Ezinne Kalu.
“When I grew older, I got interested in the NBA, so, I watched Stephen Curry, I just really liked how he made the sport look so easy, and ever since then, I now decided to work harder. He is my favourite basketball player. I like the way he shoots, and he makes shooting look so effortless, and rarely misses,” she told PUNCH Sports Extra.
“I am a also big fan of Ezinne Kalu of D’Tigress. She is a point guard like Curry, I like the way she controls the floor, the way she finishes, and above all she gives me hope. She gives me hope because most times height is a limitation for female players, but she’s 5’9 and she has made it far,” she said.
The teenager has also featured in MILO school competitions, the biggest youth basketball competition in Nigeria, but is yet to claim a medal.
However, she hasn’t given up.
“I have gone for some MILO competitions representing Government Secondary School in Nyanya, Abuja. My team didn’t make it out of the zonals because you have to qualify from your zone before making it to competition finals. The furthest we have gone is the zonal finals, but we lost and I was very sad each time, but it motivates me to work harder.
“I feel I have improved much more between now and then. I am more confident of myself now as a shooting guard and I hope we can win at the next tournament before I finish secondary school,” Bakare said.
When asked about the goals she hopes to achieve with basketball, she told PUNCH Sports Extra she hopes to make it to the United States of America where she can play basketball and also further her education.
“I hope to get into one of the best high schools in the USA, then into college and then the WNBA, or also play in the Euro leagues,” she said.
Bakare enjoys her mother’s support but at some point she feared her daughter was getting “too deep” into the game.
“Initially, my mum supported me. Over time, she thought I was getting too involved because she initially thought it was a phase.
“She started to withdraw and tried to get me to withdraw but seeing how much I have grown to love the game and how much I have improved and the opportunities that will likely come from it, she started supporting me again.”
Bakare says her happiest moment was when she was able to impress the entire basketball court during a friendly game with City Chiefs.
“There was a game I played for City Chiefs, it was a friendly match, and I made this move that got the whole court screaming, so I did a fake pass, then after losing the defender, I made a shot, and they had to stop the game to celebrate that basket. I felt so proud of myself,” she said.
Like most young athletes still in school, Bakare considered giving up her dreams for education.
“I considered giving up when I first started, I was having troubles balancing education and basketball, and at some point, I was wondering if I should drop basketball and focus on my studies, but at the same time, I can’t really leave the sport, so, I pushed on. It is not easier now, but I have gotten better at finding my way around balancing both,” she told PUNCH Sports Extra.
One of Bakare’s coaches, Anthony Nkem, said he met her back when she was 13, adding that she impressed him with her ability and mentality.
“I met her during the COVID-19 lockdown, at Rowe Park in Lagos. I saw her train and was impressed because of her height and ability at just 13. I think she is still growing much taller, and if she continues on this path, getting better, she can get to play high school basketball in the US.
“Her biggest strength as a player right now is her mentality, she wants to improve, she wants to learn and she is confident in her abilities. She believes she is going to get to that elite level while understanding that it takes steps to grow into that stage,” Nkem said.