Rwanda has produced quite a number of talented basketball players over the years but none seems to have the potential to take their game a step higher than Espoir point guard Aristide Mugabe, who has led the team to three league titles in a row.
Mugabe is the second born from a family of three boys. He was born to the late Theotime Habiryayo and Veneranda Mukamurehe, on February 11, 1988 in Maraba Sector, Huye District in the Southern Province.
The 27-year-old first got involved with sports through football; as a child he used to play soccer with other kids in his neighborhood as well as his big brother, who would later be killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi along with their father.
Following the death of his father and brother as well as other relatives, Mugabe lived in several places as his family tried to escape the murderous Interahamwe militia who had vowed to finish off the family.
From 1994 through 2000, Mugabe gave up on sports especially on football he used to play with his late elder brother as he became disillusioned with life because he could not understand why his family and other Tutsi were being killed for being who they are.
It is under pressure from his former secondary school (E.A.V Ntendezi) in 2001 that he decided to return to sports again and he ditched football for a different sport – basketball, – a sports discipline that he says has since given him a new lease of life and a new family.
“Ever since I started playing basketball, my life started changing though it was not easy at the beginning. I started making new friends and we could crack jokes and get me to laugh out loud, something that never happened to me before. Basketball also helped me lose weight, I used to be overweight before.” Mugabe told Times Sport on Sunday.
“I have achieved a lot, including education and financial support from basketball, I have made a lot of friends and families,” he said adding that the sport helped him cope with what happened to during his childhood.
Mugabe attended Tumba and Cyarwa primary schools in Huye District and later Petit Seminaire Virgo Fidelis and College Immacule Conception de Save for secondary education.
For his A-Level, Mugabe attended E.A.V Ntendezi in Nyamasheke District in the Western Province, from Senior 4-6, and St Joseph Kabgayi where he repeated form six and later joined Laiser Hill Academy in Nairobi, Kenya for one year.
The talented hoops star joined INILAK (Independent Institute of Lay Adventist of Kigali) in 2010 and graduated early 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in finance and is currently working in the Bank of Kigali.
Although he started out playing basketball in 2001, it was not until 2007 that he made his debut in the national topflight division league. His first national league side was Rusizi basketball club.
The celebrated point guard served Rusizi BBC for two years after which he joined Espoir BBC in 2009, a side he is still playing for today.
Milestones and silverware
Since making his semi-professional basketball move in 2007, Mugabe has won various titles. In 2008, while at St Joseph Kabgayi, he won his first high school title in the national inter-schools championships and also finished third in the East African post primary Games.
While at Laiser Hill Academy in Kenya, he won the East Africa high school title and was also named MVP.
With the Rwanda national team, he won the Fiba Africa Zone 5 Championship in 2011 and led the team to a first runners-up spot in 2013 as well as qualifying for the African Basketball Championships (Afrobasket) on both occasions.
He led Espoir to their first ever Fiba Africa Zone 5 Championship title and was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament staged in Kampala in 2012. He was also named MVP of the national basketball league in the same season.
He also played for Team Rwanda at the 26th and 27th editions of Afrobasket championships in 2011 in Madagascar and 2013 in Ivory Coast where they finished 13th and 10th, respectively. He also took part in the AFROBASKET club championship 2012 in Equatorial Guinea.
Since taking over the captaincy in late 2011, the 27-year old Mugabe has led Espoir basketball club to three league titles and three play-offs titles – 2012, 2013 and 2014.
He also guided Espoir to the 2012 and 2014 editions of Genocide Memorial Tournament (GMT) and two pre-season tournaments crowns of 2014 and 2015 respectively.