When shooting guard Emile Galoise Kazeneza was summoned to the national basketball team for the first time in 2018, he could not believe it. Rwanda was gearing up for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, a difficult task that required a strong squad. To his surprise, Coach Vladimir Bosnjak handed him a first call up. “When I saw my name on the list, I was so surprised to the point where I did not know how to control myself, everything started to feel like I’m in a fog,” the 22-year-old told Times Sport in an interview last month. He struggled for playing time on his national team debut as he only got two minutes to play throughout the tournament. But he was happy for the step, and somehow hoped that things would get better as he continued to grow. When he was summoned again last year for the Afrobasket, he knew that his time to shine had come. Without a doubt, it was quite impressive for him to be among the players that Head Coach Cheikh Sarr was tasking with the responsibility of fighting for national pride during the showpiece that was taking place on Rwandan soil, before local crowds. Rwanda was at the time pooled in Group A alongside Angola, Cape Verde, and Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the tournament, Kazeneza says he was grown up and ready to fight. “I knew it was my time to shine with the team. Feelings went aside and I battled. At that point I was more prepared, mentally strong and ready to compete,” he recalls. And yes, he put up a fight and showed that he was good enough for the big stage, something that he wants to keep in the near future. The game against Cape Verde was arguably his best at the tournament as he scored a high 18 points, although Rwanda went on to lose the game 74-82. Since then, he has been a regular player in the national team with his latest call up being at this year’s FIBA World Cup qualifiers. As time goes by, the youngster is ambitious and he can become a key player for his team. Who is Kazeneza? Born in Gikondo, a Kigali-suburb, Kazeneza started playing basketball at a young age while at school. At high school, he followed Mathematics, Physics and Geography, but still spared time to work on his game. In his high school final year, he left for the United States where he is currently attending college at William Carey University (NAIA) while also playing basketball. Kazeneza describes himself as a competitive player who always loves to learn new things. He looks up to late NBA basketball icon Kobe Bryant who, he says, inspired him to play the game. Meeting local basketball players that he admired so much also pushed him to venture into the game. “I always liked to watch Kobe Bryant and our national team play. I had a chance to also meet Olivier Shyaka and Kenny Gasana who always inspired me,” he said. He says he would always walk miles and miles away from home to find an outdoor court where he could just dribble or shoot around. That’s where he met Moise Mutokambali and Eric Dusabimana, the two basketball coaches who started teaching him more about the fundamentals of the game. In 2014, he joined his first team, Petit Séminaire Saint Léon, then coached by Didier Nshuti who is now a famous basketball referee. It was a revelation for the player who also earned his first appearance for the junior national team. From Saint Leon, Kazeneza enjoyed an incredible rise in his basketball development thanks to which he was signed by Espoir before joining APR. He now plies his trade at William Carey University where he is also pursuing his college studies since 2020. Kazeneza is a player with hunger for success to the point that dreams to one day play in the NBA. “It’s a dream that every basketball player wishes to fulfil,” he said. “I also want to keep growing and experiencing different leagues like European leagues especially. If God keeps me healthy I can picture myself achieving those goals,” he adds.