Group A: IPRC-Kigali, Espoir, REG
Group B: Patriots, 30-Plus, IPRC-South
Reigning champions Espoir will have a big mountain to climb if they are to retain the local edition of this year’s Gisembe memorial basketball tournament, which kicks off on Friday at Amahoro Indoor Stadium.
The annual event is organised by Espoir in partnership with Rwanda Basketball Federation (FERWABA) in memory of their former players and coach Emmanuel Ntarugera Gisembe who were killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
On Tuesday, FERWABA grouped the six men’s teams into two pools of three and it wasn’t good news for the former league champions that were drawn together with Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and IPRC-Kigali, two sides that have defeated them already this season.
Group B has Patriots, winners of last year’s regional tournament, 2016 playoffs champions IPRC-South and 30-Plus. The top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals.
Maxime Mwiseneza’s Espoir have been dealt a major blow ahead of the tournament with his skipper and most valuable player, Olivier Shyaka, set to miss due to injury.
“I may not play in this tournament but the team has got enough players to challenge any of the other teams. It’s a tough group for us but I believe it’s the best group to go through if we want to celebrate a deserved win,” said Shyaka.
Espoir lost to REG in the league first round 75-82 as well as to IPRC-Kigali in the final of this year’s Heroes’ Day tournament (76-65).
Meanwhile, the women category will have three teams, namely APR, IPRC-South and Ubumwe that will play each other on a round robin format.
The regional edition will be played on June 9-11 and it is expected to attract teams from Uganda, DR Congo, Burundi and hosts Rwanda.