National basketball league giants Espoir and Patriots have began early preparations for this year’s FIBA Zone Club Championships, scheduled for October 1-7 in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
Rwanda will be represented by the two clubs in the men’s category while Ubumwe Basketball Club will feature in the women’s fray at the annual tournament that attracts the 11 countries in FIBA-Africa Zone V.
The four-time national league winners Espoir kicked off their preparations early last week at their training base at Rafiki in Nyamirambo under the guidance of the new club caretaker Kharim Nkusi. The club parted ways with their former coach Jean Bahufite at the end of last season.
“We have begun preparations a bit early in order to build our effectiveness and get into the mood of the competition after a short break though all players are yet to turn up, we hope to begin rigorous training as a full team this week,” Nkusi toldTimes Sport.
According to Nkusi, Espoir, which last won the tournament in 2012, are keen to break the three-year title drought.
“Our main target is to challenge for the title and we plan to sign a player or two before we head to Tanzania,” added Nkusi.
Meanwhile, reigning league champions Patriots also started their training last week at their home training ground in Kagugu ahead of their debut in the regional championship.
“This is our first time to represent the country and we train rigorously from Monday to Friday, all players are responding well. It is a tough competition with the best clubs in the region, but we want to go as far as we possibly can,” said Patriots coach Henry Mwinuka.
Last year, the week-long tourney was staged in Kigali and Egyptian debutants Gezira won the men’s title while Burundi’s Berco Stars overcame 2014 winners USIU (Kenya) to claim the women’s crown.
Espoir finished as Rwanda’s best performers with a bronze while CSK finished seventh. In women’s tourney, debutants Ubumwe finished fourth with APR finishing sixth.