Newcomers Kigali Titans Basketball Club are looked at as one of the teams that can pull up surprises during the coming Rwanda Basketball League which kick off Friday, January 13. Though it was founded a year ago, the club has already made some strides, including winning the inaugural Division 2 league unbeaten, and the 2022 pre-season tournament. Eugene Rubonera Junior, the founder and president of the club, told Times Sport that he decided to establish the team after the local basketball governing body (Ferwaba) announced the introduction of the second division. A businessman in the pharmaceutical and real estate industry, Rubonera has always dedicated his love for basketball, despite having never played it to the professional level. After completing his high school, he went for university studies at the former School of Finance and Banking (SFB), now University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Finance, where he made a couple of friends who were basketball players. By the time he left SFB in 2013, he had gathered valuable friends who continued to make his love for the game better. “I told them ‘it is tough, but we can venture into it. Our league has not reached that level of professionalism whereby you can always generate income from it, but with our passion, please let us go ahead and establish a club,” he adds. “We had an idea of starting a Christian basketball club, which we actually assembled. We didn’t officially register it but we launched it at Petit Stade in partnership with an American Christian group that came here, part of which was Steve Blake, a Los Angeles Lakers point guard by then,” he narrates. Unfortunately, the club did not succeed as anticipated, but Rubonera had developed friendships with young talents, which resulted in more opportunities. In 2019, IPRC-Kigali hired him as the vice president of the college’s Basketball club, a position he served for two years. Being a government institution, IPRC-Kigali did not seem to satisfactorily offer Rubonera the sports management experience that he was dreaming of, because the club had its guidelines and regulations which were somehow limiting his business mindset, coupled with passion for the game. When the federation introduced the second division league which undoubtedly became an opportunity for people who wanted to start new clubs, Rubonera jumped on the occasion and sold an idea to his two friends Frank Ntwali and Theo Shimwe, who are both government employees. “I told them ‘it is tough, but we can venture into it. Our league has not reached that level of professionalism whereby you can always generate income from it, but because, with our passion, please let us go ahead and establish a club,” he adds. In January last year, they invited about 30 players to come for trials. With the support of Cyril Kalima (the head coach of Titans), they selected 12 players with whom they started with the team. Things started to move on well, as the team competed in the Division 2 pre-season and won it, to go into the league to rub shoulders with 16 other clubs from which only two topflight slots were up for grabs. “We wanted to be among those two clubs that would be promoted, and we successfully made it, unbeaten. And here we are,” he says. Now, the team is gearing up for the topflight where they will go head to head with the best in the country. Since their promotion, the Titans signed a host of new players. In fact, they only retained one player out of the team that featured in the second division. Recently, the team announced the signing of American point guard William Perry, and Nigerian forward cum center, Francis Azolibe. Rubonera’s target is that the Kigali Titans make it to the playoffs this year, and who knows, when they are there, anything can happen – including winning the title itself.