Springfield Central basketball player overcomes hardships to succeed on the court

Julie said she wants to play professionally one day, but, for now, she is keeping things simple.
Published: Sep. 10, 2022 at 11:55 AM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - You probably remember the Springfield Central girl’s basketball team won the state tournament last year, but you probably did not know one of their star player’s, Julie Bahati, has 15 Division I offers to play college basketball.

“Leaving your children like that little when they are young like that every day is tough,” said Julie’s mother, Rosemary Mudachi.

About four years before Julie Bahati and her siblings came to the United States, Rosemary came here to build a better life for her family.

She said it was a long and tedious process

“I’m an immigrant, so you need to get things done right before you can fight for them to come and move over here. It’s not like you can just get in the car and come here. It is about paperwork,” Rosemary Mudachi added.

At the age of nine years old, Julie and her three siblings moved from Kenya to the United States. Julie said she had culture shock.

“I didn’t realize how different it was going to be. The way you guys talk, the way you guys dress. It was all so different,” Julie Buhati explained.

In the sixth grade, Julie was approached by the now varsity coach of Springfield Central girl’s team coach, James Gee, but she was not interested in playing.

“He wanted to know if I had played the sport before. I told him no,” Julie Buhati said.

Like any good coach, he found a way, by calling her mom.

“I tried to encourage her to play, but I told her you are not doing nothing. You are not working, so that is what you are going to do,” Rosemary Mudachi added.

While the saying goes ‘Mom is always right,’ it took a while for Julie to come out of her shell.

“At first, I was so shy. I did not want the ball. I would hide from the defense,” Julie Buhati noted.

As Julie improved, she would fall in love with the game.

“We were at a Catholic school and I scored my first six points in a row. That was a game changing moment for me. Everyone was cheering and I fell in love with the feeling of scoring and I thought what more could I do?” Julie Buhati said.

She could do a lot more apparently. Fast forward to today, she has 15 Division I offers. She said none of her success would be possible without Coach Gee.

“From a child who never played the game and picking up the ball in sixth and seeing where she is at now, I have been able to see hard work pay off and that if you do good things, good things will happen to you,” Gee said.

Despite seeing something special in Julie at a young age, Gee said she has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“She is one of the leaders of the team. She displays role model behavior on and off the court. She has a 3.8 GPA and that’s something we always look for,” Gee added.

“I worked hard and I stuck with him and he has been a great mentor for me. I also see him as a father figure…my love for basketball grew because of him…and I’m so glad I did because it’s what I do every day,” Julie Buhati said.

Both Julie and Gee have their sights set on repeating as state champions, but have long-term goals as well.

“We want to set them up for their future endeavors, bringing good character, having a positive culture, and just be good people,” Gee said.

Julie said she wants to play professionally one day, but, for now, she is keeping things simple.

“I want to grow into the sport of basketball and see where it takes me,” Julie noted.