Canberra Capitals star Abby Bishop with her five-month-month old niece Zala.

Canberra Capitals star Abby Bishop with her five-month-month old niece Zala. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Zala Kate Bishop is the five-month-old baby girl the Canberra Capitals WNBL team has adopted as its own.

Australian Opals and Capitals star Abby Bishop took custody of her niece in August last year, when Zala was just two-days-old.

She lays in a pram beside the court as the Capitals train, she travels with them to every WNBL match across the country and she is a comforting cuddle after every loss for the players who adore her.

Canberra Capitals star Abby Bishop with her five-month-month old niece Zala.

Canberra Capitals star Abby Bishop with her five-month-month old niece Zala. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Bishop's life has changed incredibly, the 25-year-old volunteering to take on the responsibility of a being "single mum", taking custody of Zala from elder sister Chloe, who is based in Darwin, for at least 12 months.

But, cradling the baby who shares her own middle and last names, Bishop says she "wouldn't change a thing."

"It was an easy decision to take [Zala] and it's been rewarding," Bishop says.

Canberra Capitals star Abby Bishop with her five-month-month old niece Zala.

Canberra Capitals star Abby Bishop with her five-month-month old niece Zala. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

"It was a spur of the moment thing, one week I was a normal 25-year-old and the next week I had a baby. There was no pregnancy, so people were a bit surprised.

"From the moment we left the hospital I felt like she was mine and as time's gone on it's been stronger.

"Obviously my life has changed, but all in a good way. It's put basketball and life into perspective.

"I know I didn't give birth to this little thing, but I still see her as one of my own. Now she's the Capitals' mascot, too."

Bishop was in Darwin for her niece's birth in August last year.

Two days later, Bishop named Zala - or "Zdog" as she known at the Capitals - and the pair flew to Canberra. It was the first of many flights for Zala.

Her five months has already included Canberra's taxing eight-game, 37-day, 10,500 kilometre trip around Australia.

Zala was there for every match and she will be in the stands again as the Capitals take on the Melbourne Boomers on Saturday and the Dandenong Rangers on Sunday.

There are athlete mums spread through the WNBL and female sport, but Bishop's situation is unique.

In the past five months she's been on a rapid journey from international basketballer to 25-year-old mother.

Her sister agreed to have Bishop look after Zala.

They are in regular contact about Zala's life, sharing photos, videos and video phone calls to share Zala's growth and changes.

Despite skipping the nine-month pregnancy, Bishop, a 2012 Olympian, has embraced her overnight single-mum status.

The lifestyle change and sleepless nights took their toll at the start - Bishop admits she was stressed and lost weight.

But she has recovered and plans to have children of her own in the future.

"They do say you get a mother's instinct when you're pregnant. I used to be a nanny," Bishop grins.

"I've always loved kids, and the switch just goes on. Even though I didn't carry Zala for nine months, the switch did go on for me.

"Plus, Google is great as well. She's been a really good baby."

Zala has become the Capitals' "team baby" and mascot, joining the players on gruelling road trips, heartbreaking defeats and unexpected wins on a rollercoaster campaign.

Bishop's boyfriend lives in Wollongong, her mum is based in rural Queensland and her sister is in Darwin.

It means Zala sits in her pram at the Belconnen Basketball Stadium when the Capitals train.

If she gets restless, coach Carrie Graf, a new mother to twins born by IVF, steps in as babysitter and perches Zala on her shoulder while barking orders on the court.

When the Capitals are on the road, relatives and friends of teammates or opponents take Zala during the game.

Ten minutes after the match, Bishop is back in control.

"The one thing about Abby is she's got a can-do attitude. She battled on, sucked it up and is now a single parent," Graf said.

"She's handled it with absolute aplomb. It's one of her strengths, she grits her teeth and gets it done.

"It's not an easy situation. Not a lot of people could take on those parenting duties and it's an absolute credit to her."

Bishop's focus turned from basketball to 3am feedings, sleepless nights and baby-proofing her life.

Raising a child and juggling basketball hasn't affected Bishop's on-court performance.

The 190 centimetre forward averages a team high 17.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season.

"It is hard and I know there are a lot of single mums out there struggling along and I don't want sympathy. But for me, I'm lucky that I get paid to play basketball for a living," Bishop said.

"But she's a part of me and the Caps now. I don't regret anything. Things as simple as grocery shopping become different and hard, I don't have family in Canberra so Zala does everything with me.

"I still treat basketball seriously, but Zala is No1 now. Basketball is second to her and always will be."

At the start of the season Bishop was set to share a room on the road with teammate Nat Hurst.

But determined not to disrupt team preparation and burden players with a baby's sleeping patterns, Bishop pays for her own room at away games.

She organises a baby seat for the team can and teammates take turns at nursing Zala on the plane.

Young Canberra players Alex Bunton and Carley Mijovic are the chief team babysitters.

The best part is Zala can make the Capitals forget about their defeats almost immediately.

Seven-time WNBL champion Canberra has won just eight games this season.

"Kids are a great leveller in basketball. If you didn't get the win, everyone will give Zala a cuddle after a loss," Graf said.

"They're a positive distraction. If you're bummed about a loss, everyone gets to nurse Zala. Babies are people magnets.

"I said to Abby we will make it work. There's always someone to look after her at games around Australia."

The Capitals are no strangers to babies at training.

Michelle Cosier played after giving birth to her first child Brodie and is expecting her second child.

Centre Tracey Beatty also raised her son, Bowyn, around the rigours of WNBL duties.

"If you have a bad game you can go home to this little thing and nothing else matters," Bishop said.

It's not unusual for mothers to return to the WNBL after giving birth. But Bishop's situation is unique.

For most of Bishop's life, her only concern has been basketball.

She played for Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and has won multiple WNBL titles.

Bishop has won a WNBA championship in the United States and had a playing stint in France.

She's aiming for a world championship berth this year and is considering returning to France at the end of Canberra's WNBL campaign.

She also wants to play at the 2016 Olympics. But from now on, she's a package deal with baby Zala.

Bishop is also still negotiating with Basketball Australia whether Zala would be allowed to go on international trips.

"I remember when she was 3 kilograms and tiny, now she smiles, laughs and rolls over," Bishop said.

"Even though she's not biologically my child, it's still rewarding.

"I feel I've achieved everything in basketball I've wanted to so far and taking on Zala was never going to be a burden for me.

"I still have the basketball drive and goals. Everything has changed for me. I still have the dreams, but Zala is the priority and I need to know I'm supported with her."