It was an action packed year for basketball fraternity in 2016
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Unlike the previous year, 2016 was an eventful year for Rwandan basketball in which a total of five rising basketball players won scholarships to different colleges in the U.S. following an impressive display at the FIBA-Africa U18 Men’s Championship held in Kigali.
Times Sport recaps some of the main events that highlighted the year:
Patriots win first league title
Established in 2014, the Kagugu-based hoops club finished second in their maiden season behind Espoir but went a step further in their second campaign winning the regular season title.
In a tightly contested league, Patriots won the title after beating their rivals and close challengers Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC-South) 52-45 in the title deciding game that was played in Huye in May.
Their former team captain Ali Kazingufu Kubwimana was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) while Espoir’s Olivier Shyaka was the top scorer with 286 points. In the women fray, APR won the title while Ubumwe’s Ines Nezerwa was the MVP.
IPRC-South scoops playoffs title
After losing the league title on the final day, Huye-based IPRC-South revenged on Patriots, defeating them 3-1 to win the best-of-five finals series.
This was history made by the club, which was also formed in 2014 and went on to win the pre-season tournament after stunning defending champions Espoir 83-64.
Again, in the women league, Ubumwe were crowned playoffs champions after a 3-0 drubbing of archrivals APR in the best-of-five final series.
For their achievements, Patriots and IPRC-South (men) as well as APR and Ubumwe (women) will represent the country in this year’s Africa Zone V Club Championship.
Espoir, Patriots win Gisembe memorial titles
In 2015, local basketball governing body, FERWABA, in conjunction with Espoir Basketball Club, added a regional Gisembe memorial tournament to the local version that has been organized for the last decade.
The annual tournament is held in memory of former Espoir player and Coach Emmanuel Ntarugera Gisembe, who was killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The 2016 edition was held in June.
In the local edition, organizers Espoir avenged the disappointment of losing the league title to Patriots with a 69-56 win to claim their only trophy of the season whereas APR overpowered The Hoops Rwanda 63-50 to win the women’s crown.
For the regional edition, Patriots (men) and Burundi’s Berco Stars (women) were crowned champions.
Patriots won the title after overcoming DR Congo’s Boundess Basketball club in a tightly contested final 66-64 at Amahoro indoor stadium while Berco Stars retained the title after defeating APR 58-55 in the final.
Rwanda hosts FIBA-Africa U18 Men’s Championship
From July 22-31, Rwanda hosted the 2016 FIBA Africa Under-18 Men’s Championship that attracted a total of eleven countries namely; Angola, Egypt, Mali, Tunisia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda, Gabon, Republic of Benin and the hosts Rwanda.
The tournament returned to Kigali six years after it was last held here in 2010, and it was the third time for Rwanda to participate in the event—the other time was in 2012 in Maputo, Mozambique.
Last year, Angola were crowned champions after defeating defending champions Egypt 86-82 to claim the title for the fourth time, while Rwanda beat Democratic Republic of Congo 77-73 to finish fifth, their best-ever finish in the competition.
Angola's Silvio Sousa was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player while Patrick Mwamba of DR Congo was the highest scorer of the tournament with 160 points in eight games.
Five basketballers join colleges in USA
Despite not reaching far, the continental showpiece provided a platform for Rwandan players to showcase their talent which saw five of them getting scholarships to study at different colleges in the U.S.
Among them is Arnaud Nkusi, who joined Potter's House Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Emmanuel Habimana, Osborn Shema, Cadeau de Dieu Furaha went to Glove Prep Christian Academy also based in Jacksonville and Chrispaul Ntihinda, who is in Georgia.
Modest show at FIBA-Africa Zone V Club Championships
It was a modest campaign for Rwandan clubs at the 2016 FIBA-Africa Zone V Club Championships that was held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania from October 1-7.
The country was represented by three clubs, namely; Patriots and Espoir in the men category and Ubumwe (women) after APR withdrew from competing at the last minute.
Patriots were Rwanda’s best performers after reaching the semi-finals only to suffer a heartbreaking 64-62 defeat at the hands of Kenya’s Ulinzi Warriors while Espoir, the 2012 champions, were knocked out in the quarter-finals. Uganda’s City Oilers were the champions after defeating Ulinzi 72-49 at the final.
Ubumwe finished third behind champions Kenya Ports Authority and first runners-up United States International University (USIU) also from Kenya.
Expansion of 2016/17 league, BK pulls out
Before the start of the 2016/17 season, in November, Bank of Kigali (BK) and Rwanda Energy Group (REG) basketball clubs were approved by FERWABA to compete in the national league.
Also, re-admitted was Kimisagara-based 30-Plus replacing the U18 boys Team that ceased to exist after the 2016 FIBA Africa Under-18 Men’s Championship, taking the number of league clubs to 12 from 10, the previous season.
However, just a month after getting their approval and having made several recruitments, Bank of Kigali dramatically pulled out citing that they were not ready enough and promised to debut in the 2017/18 season.
Patriots win the pre-season tourney
The year 2016 belonged to Patriots, who did not only end Espoir’s four-year firm grip on both the regular season league and playoffs but also went on to set a mark as the team to beat henceforth.
The league champions overcame newly created Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in a narrow 76-75 victory to claim the 2017 pre-season tournament in November, dethroning IPRC- South.
Mugwiza re-elected FERWABA president
The last significant event to note in 2016 was the re-lection of Desire Mugwiza to lead the Rwanda Basketball Federation for a second four-year term, until 2020.
In the elections that took place on December 18, Mugwiza retained his post unopposed and promised to make infrastructure and youth development his top priorities in the next four years.
The assembly also voted Pascale Mugwaneza as the first vice president while Richard Nyirishema retained his position as 2ndvice president while Richard Mutabazi returned unopposed as the federation secretary general.