Burundian international center Ines Nezerwa was named the 2015/16 women hoops league MVP. She plays for local women league side and reigning playoffs champions, Ubumwe Basketball Club.
She joined the club towards the end of the first round of the just concluded 2015/16 season from Bujumbura giants Berco Stars.
By the time she joined, the club was in second position behind their archrivals APR, but her excellent skills and leadership experience, inspired the club to win the playoffs title as well as the Heroes’ Day and International Women’s Day tournaments.
Geoffrey Asiimwe caught up with Nezerwa to talk about her journey and passion for basketball.
The soft-spoken Nezerwa is the only one in her family who took the sports path. During her childhood, football was her passion.
“I was never stopped to go anywhere with my friends to play, as a child, I used to like football. I never tried basketball when I was younger,” she said in an interview with Saturday Sport.
The 22-year-old reveals that her journey in basketball began when she joined secondary. One of the sports teachers advised her to try out playing basketball citing the advantage of her height.
She says, “You know in schools, you normally have co-curricular activities and do different sports, so for me I used to play football until one day my sports teacher told me that I can make a good basketball player if I wanted, he convinced me and that’s how I got into basketball.”
From that moment, the 1.93m high athlete started to train with her school basketball team and in a short time he was on the school for inter-schools competitions.
In 2008 while in senior three, Berco Stars head coach spotted her playing for school and was impressed by the skills she possessed and he convinced her to join the club, an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
“Since I started playing basketball in 2008, I have been with Berco Stars until last year when I joined Ubumwe Basketball Club,” she disclosed.
Nezerwa, who turns 23 on December 2, has been with Berco Stars for the past seven years.
Last year, she crossed boarders to join Ubumwe, however; during her seven years with Bujumbura- based side, Nezerwa won six league titles, only missing out the 2012 title as well as six playoff trophies.
During that period, Nezerwa claimed the best Rebounder of the Year for seven consecutive seasons.
“I started playing basketball not as a career but for fun, and though I am still studying, the sport has become part of my life and a career because it has opened a lot of doors for me and I have travelled to many countries,” she noted with a wide smile on her face.
Her efforts saw Berco Stars finish second in 2014 Zone V Club Championship in Dar-es –Salaam, behind Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and again she claimed the best rebounder award, and in 2015, she won the same tournament with Berco Stars in Kigali.
She came to Rwanda in 2014 for studies and in 2015, with the help of University of Rwanda, Huye campus basketball club head coach Charles Mushumba, joined Ubumwe and in her maiden season she was named the MVP.
At the national level, Nezerwa has also been a regular for the Burundi women national team since 2011 when she got her first international cap during the Zone V Championship that was hosted in Kigali. Even though the team didn’t do well, Nezerwa’s performance was one of the few highlights.
Her second appearance in the same competition was in 2014, again in Kigali and Burundi finished third, behind champions Uganda and first runners up Kenya. Her last international duty was in 2015 in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania for the same event, unfortunately Burundi’s campaign was modest.
Best and worst moments
She reveals, “My best moment so far was last year when Berco Stars won the Zone V Club Championship. By that time our country was in turmoil but we managed to overcome that and won the title and my worst moment was in 2014 when we lost in the final in Dar-es-Salam against KPA.”
“Just like any other player, my ambition is to keep improving my game and I dream of playing at the international level, however; my first priority was to complete school and I am close to achieving it,” notes the Burundi international center.
She says, “My appreciation goes to all my coaches, who have been good mentors and I am sure I’m here because of them. One of them is former Berco Stars coach Lazard Niyonkuru, who spotted me first and gave me the chance and the other is former Urunani player Alex Hakizimana, he is like my manager.”
Born on December 2, 1993 in Nyakabiga sector in Bujumbura, Nezerwa is the second born in the family of five—she is the only girl.
She attended SOS Bujumbura for her primary and secondary education and currently she is in third year at University of Rwanda, Huye campus, pursuing Applied Statistics.
Nezerwa looks up to the famous American retired professional basketball player Kobe Bryant for inspiration and is a diehard fan of NBA 2016 finalists, Golden State Warriors.