Meet Mutokambali, the national hoops team coach

Basketball is not a new sport in Rwanda. The local basketball federation (Ferwaba) has been a member of the International Basketball Federation since 1977, so it’s understandable why the sport is one of the most popular in the country.
Moise Mutokambali gives intructions to his players at half time during a game in the 2013 Afro-basket championships in Ivory Coast. (File)
Moise Mutokambali gives intructions to his players at half time during a game in the 2013 Afro-basket championships in Ivory Coast. (File)

Basketball is not a new sport in Rwanda. The local basketball federation (Ferwaba) has been a member of the International Basketball Federation since 1977, so it’s understandable why the sport is one of the most popular in the country.

However, before 2000, Team Rwanda was virtually unknown to most basketball followers beyond Rwanda’s boarders. Since the mid-2000s however, the team has made a name as a formidable side in the region and the on the continent.

Over the last ten years or so, Rwanda has emerged as a major force in Zone V and has qualified for the Fiba Africa basketball championships finals four times in a row from 2007 to 2013.

In this issue, Saturday Sport profiles the man who has been in charge of the senior national men’s team for the past two years—Moise Mutokambali.

Playing and coaching career

Mutokambali is a great coach but he never was a great player during his brief playing career and says back in the days, there was no qualified coaches to detect and develop talent.

 “During my playing days, there were no coaches to detect, integrate and develop talent like it is today, the few that were there, used not to care about young talents but only dealt with senior players that served the purpose at that moment,” he says.

 He featured for Lycee de Kigali basketball team in several national inter-schools championships but never won any notable silverware with the secondary school.

Mutokambali never featured prominently for any side in the national basketball league save for brief training stints with Espoir and Kigali Institute of Education basketball teams before venturing into coaching in 2005.

“Thanks to former national team coach and my former lecturer, the late Jean de Dieu Nizeyimana, who saw the potential in me and guided me into coaching.  Never in my life had I dreamt of coaching as my profession,” Mutokambali explains.

From 2005 to 2012, Mutokambali was a coach for his former secondary school team, Lycee de Kigali on a part-time basis on top of carrying out other basketball development roles at different levels.

At Lycee de Kigali, he won one inter-schools championship title in 2013, and reached the final in 2011 and also helped APE Rugunga win the trophy in 2010, EMEN Nyamirambo in 2009 and Lycee Notre Damme de Citeaux in girls’ category in 2009.

National team duties

From 2009, Mutokambali has been serving in national teams at different levels and since January 2013, he has been the head coach of the men’s senior team.

In 2009, he was assistant coach to Croatian tactician Veceslav Kavedzja who was head coach of  women’s national senior team that finished 10th out of 12 teams at the Fiba Afro-basket Championships in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

In 2010, he worked as assistant coach of the U-18 national men’s team that finished sixth out of ten teams at the African junior basketball championships staged in Kigali.

Two years later, he was the team manager of the U-18 men’s team that won Zone five title in Kigali to qualify for junior Afro-basket and went on to finish bottom of the 11-team at the continental meet in Maputo, Mozambique.

In January 2003, Mutokambali was appointed national senior men’s team head coach and led the team to second place in Fiba Africa Zone Five tournament held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and 10th place (out of 16 teams) at the Afro-basket Championships in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in his first year in charge.

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Mutokambali says he still needs to improve as a coach.

2014, a nightmare year

However, in his second year, things didn’t go well. In August 2014, Rwanda finished third out of five countries at the Fiba Africa Zone V Championships held in Kampala ending their dream of qualifying for both this year’s All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville and Afro-basket in Tunisia.

“For the first time since 2007, we failed to qualify for the Afro-basket finals, and as the coach, I take full responsibility, but I can promise that we will make it to the 2017 edition, we are looking for a solution to the mistakes that made us fail to qualify,” he acknowledges.

2015 and future plans

Mutokambali is currently working with the federation to scout and develop young talents as part of the national U-16 boys’ and girls’ teams’ preparations ahead of the Fiba Africa Youth Zone V Championships slated for May 25-31 in Kigali.

The 33-year-old Mutokambali also admits that he still has a long way to go in his coaching career despite his achievements.  “I know I have to improve day-by-day in order to become a better coach. The least I can do for my countries is being part of the development of the sport that I have enjoyed since I was a child,” he explains.

Espoir and national team captain, Aristide Mugabe says, “Mutokambali is thoughtful man; he is very concerned about players and their daily life. He treats us like a parent.”

Eric Dusabimana, head coach of women’s league side, Rwanda Allied Peace for Progress (RAPP) and a beneficiary of Mutokambali’s coaching skills back in secondary school at APE Rugunga, says:

“He is a supportive man with a big heart; he is my mentor. He coached me during my playing days, guided me into coaching and still supports me when I need him. At work, he’s very dedicated, strict and very disciplined.”

Who is Mutokambali?

Born on April 24, 1981 in Nyarugenge District, City of Kigali, Mutokambali is from a family of five children, three boys and two girls. He is the fourth-born to Simon Pierre Niyoyita and Clodethe Mujawabera.

He attended Sainte Famille primary school (1987-1993), went to Lycee de Kigali (1993-1999) for his O and A level studies before enrolling at former KIE (currently UR- College of Education) for a degree in Physical Sports with Education and graduated in 2008.

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Mutokambali is a fan of Kevin Durant

Besides coaching, Mutokambali, says he also enjoys the game and is a big fan of Oklahoma City Thunder in NBA and particularly, reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant.

Mutokambali is single and is not in a relationship.

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