The past two to three years have seen Rwanda basketball significantly recuperate with a lot of new talents coming into the lime light and surely there is no doubt that the future is bright.
As a result, after six years of waiting, Rwanda hosted the FIBA Men’s Africa U-18 Championships in July last year.
In this particular continental showpiece, Rwanda fielded one of the very youthful and very talented teams and as a result they reached the quarter-finals for the first time ever.
As if it wasn’t enough, a total of five players benefited from a fully sponsored scholarship at various colleges in United States after they demonstrated their potential in this youthful tournament.
Among them was Cadeau De Dieu Furaha, Osborn Shema and Emmanuel Habimana who went to Jacksonville-based Glove Prep Christian Academy, Arnaud Nkusi who is at The Potter’s House Christian Academy also in Jackson Ville and Chris Paul Ntihinda who is at Covenant Christian Ministries Academy in Georgia.
However, one of the best youngsters on this team who was instrumental during this campaign and continued even after in the local hoops league, is point guard Jean Jacques Wilson Nshobozwabyosenumukiza.
At first, this prodigy gained fame in the U-18 championship because of his long surname Nshobozwabyosenumukiza that literally means “I am enabled by God in everything.”
At the end of the tournament, his skills and talent were on the lips of everyone that watched him play, which attracted the attention of several local basketball giants to get his signature.
The 18-year-old decided to join one of his childhood dream clubs Espoir Basketball Club and is currently a regular and key player for the four-time league champions. However, he believes his dream is still far from being reached.
This week, the highly-rated promising point guard was interviewed by Saturday Sport’s Geoffrey Asiimwe and he narrated his fairy tale rise to the local basketball helm.
Who is Nshobozwabyosenumukiza?
Born on June 26, 1998 in Kiyovu sector, Nyarugenge District, City of Kigali to Augustin Wilson Nsegumuremyi (RIP) and Immaculee Nyiramibi, Nshobozwabyosenumukiza is the last born in a family of nine (five boys and four girls).
He completed his primary education at EPAKE Kimihurura Primary school before joining APE Rugunga for Ordinary studies. He is pursuing Advanced level studies at the same school and is currently in form five taking a combination of Mathematics, Economics and Geography (MEG).
The soft-spoken youngster says American professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Andrew Irving is his role model.
“Every day I try to copy his style of play, I like it because he can dribble, shoot and at the same time is a leader on a pitch, traits I think every successful basketball player should possess,” he explained.
Nshobozwabyose as commonly referred to once dreamt of becoming a very popular footballer and he once captained his primary school team for a long time until 2010 when he decided to try basketball. He was in primary five at the time.
“I grew up playing football and I was the captain for my primary school EPAKE Kimihurura for a long time. However, when I reached in Primary five, I decided to learn basketball and joined our school team which I believe was the time I realized this talent,” he recounts
None of his siblings has ever played basketball, but when the chocolate skinned maestro joined the basketball team, he was easily named the school captain.
In 2011, while in primary six, the current national U-18 and senior team head coach Moise Mutokambali visited his school and was very impressed with his skills.
“He told me to start training in holidays at Amahoro indoor stadium with a team called “The Hoops” so that he could follow my progress regularly,” he narrates
When he joined APE Rugunga, he says he continued to play for the school team and he featured in many inter-school competitions, but was always in touch with coach Mutokambali.
In 2015, he got his first call to the national team in the FIBA U-16 Afro basketball that took place in Mali however; he failed at the last minute to travel with the team due to issues with his travel documents.
In 2016, he was again selected in the U18 boys’ team that was preparing for the 2016 FIBA U-18 Afro-basketball. The selected team was then allowed to feature in the 2016/17 national Basketball league.
“Coach Mutokambali believed in me since the start, he selected me in the team and I got my chance to play in the national league for the first time,” Nshobozwabyose disclosed.
At the end of the season, the U18 team competed in the continental showpiece and Nshobozwabyose believes it gave him a breakthrough.
“It was a memorable year for me, getting such a chance to play in front of a fully packed stadium where fans chant your name is really unbelievable, it gave me confidence, experience and in general I professionally grew up,” he explained
As mentioned earlier, with Nshobozwabyose being a key player in the team, Rwanda reached the quarterfinals for the first time ever before finishing in the fifth place after playoff games behind Angola, Egypt, Mali, and Tunisia that followed each other in that sequence.
After the conclusion of the tournament, reigning league champions Patriots, former champions APR and Espoir all wanted to sign the young prodigy but he decided to sign for Espoir which he says has been his childhood club.
“The tournament was a stepping stone for me and I believe it’s why all those teams wanted to sign me, however, Espoir was my dream team since childhood and I didn’t hesitate about joining them,” he said
With Espoir, Nshobozwabyose is currently a regular starter for the Nyamirambo-based powerhouse where he featured for them in the 2016 FIBA-Africa Zone V Club championship that was held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and reached in the quarter finals.
This year, they recently reached the finals of the 2017 Heroes’ Day tournament where they lost to IPRC-Kigali and are currently fifth in the national league standings.
Recently Mutokambali also selected the youngster among the players currently preparing for this year’s FIBA-Africa Zone V qualifiers set for March in Egypt.
Best and worst moments
“My worst moment was last year, I was left out of the U-18 national team that went to USA for a training camp, I was disheartened but I decided to work hard and when the team came back, I joined them and was even better than all of them, which I consider as my best moment.”
Future plans and ambition
“I want to play basketball in USA because I believe it’s where every player dreams to play and I hope in the near future, I will be there.”
“My sincere gratitude goes to my mum, she is so supportive of me and coach Mutokambali who taught me everything and has followed my progress almost on a daily basis, I thank him so much.”