Parfait Ishimwe is a true example of what loyalty means in sport. Despite the challenges his club has gone through, he has stayed put with APR basket ball club for years. The 22-year-old shooting guard is among the best talents in the national league having started his career with Cliff Owuor’s side seven years ago. In an era where players are on the lookout for the next juicy deal, it is indeed a show of loyalty for the star that is 3 years shy of making a decade with the club.
How the journey started
Like many kids who discover their true talent at a later age, Ishimwe started playing basketball in 2010.
He spent his childhood playing football and like many kids, he dreamt of becoming a professional footballer—his favourite position was in central defence.
“I grew up playing football as a central defender throughout my childhood. I never tried basketball until I reached senior two,” he reveals in an interview with Saturday Sport.
Ishimwe was spotted by former Patriots head coach Cyrille Kalima in 2010 while training at former Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) now University of Rwanda College of Education during third term holidays—Kalima was by then a coach player for KIE that was competing in the national league.
“At KIE, the basketball courts and football pitches are adjacent and as we were training, our ball dropped on the side of the basketball pitch and I went there to pick it. Kalima stared at me for a while and asked about my age then asked me why I playing football and not basketball.”
“He asked me if I could join his team and he teaches me basketball. I accepted and during the nearly three-month holiday, I quickly integrated that at the end of the holiday, my mind had switched from football to basketball,” he recalls.
At Saint Joseph Kabgyayi, Ishimwe linked up with the current Rwanda Energy Group (REG) head coach Jean Bahufite and in 2011; he won the Inter-schools competitions with the team. At the time, the Muhanga-based school was competing in the national league.
That same year, Ishimwe met with his current coach Owour during a basketball event that had been organized by Athletes in Action (AIA), a sports organization based in Xenia, Ohio in the United States.
“Cliff was impressed with what he saw and he convinced me to join him at APR promising that I would play on a top level, and I was convinced and started to play for them in 2011 before switching to Lycee de Kigali in 2012.”
During that period, APR were the top dog on the local scene, they had the best players, mostly foreigners.
However, Ishimwe’s coming coincided with the club’s change of policy to use only local players.
In 2013, after shinning with Lycee de Kigali during the Federation of East African Secondary School Sports Associations (FEASSSA) Games that were held in Burundi, Kenyan school, Laiser Hill Academy offered a scholarship to Ishimwe on condition that he plays for them but he chose to remain an APR player.
In 2014, he was named APR captain. Despite having not won a league title with the former champions, who have finished in the top four every season, Ishimwe has been the club’s top scorer.
With APR, they have won two East African Military Games titles in 2015 and 2016. Last year, he was hired by Patriots to play in the Gisembe regional tournament after his club withdrew and he helped them to win the trophy.
On national duty, Ishimwe made his debut during this year’s FIBA Africa Zone V Championships held in Egypt, where Rwanda won a bronze medal.
Who inspires him?
Ishimwe was born on May 28, 1995 in Nyamirambo sector, Nyarugenge district, City of Kigali to Augustin Iyamuremye and Marie-Josée Mushimiyimana. He is the fourth born in the family of five; four boys and a girl.
Ishimwe’s young brother Olivier Irakoze is also a basketball player and features for league side Cercle Sportif de Kigali (CSK).
Ishimwe says he looks up to Russell Westbrook, an American professional basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder, although he confesses to be a big fan of the reigning NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers.
In his leisure time, Ishimwe follows football and is a fan of English Premier League side, Manchester United.
At 22, the youngster, who stands at 1.95cm and weighs 78kgs says he is currently in a relationship with his girlfriend, a one Nikita Kaneza.
Ishimwe attended Green Hills Academy for his primary education and later joined secondary at the same school before switching to Saint Joseph Kabgyayi in senior three after securing a scholarship courtesy of the local basket ball federation. He completed his Ordinary Level education at Saint Joseph Kabgyayi.
In senior five, he switched to Lycee de Kigali before completing his secondary education in Kenya at Laiser Hill Academy that had offered him a scholarship.
Currently, he is in second year at Kigali Independent University (ULK) pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations.
Best and worst moments
His best moment was when he won his first and only trophy with Patriots during the Gisembe regional Memorial Tournament last year.
The worst moment was when the national team lost in the semi-finals during the FIBA Africa Zone V in Egypt, and suffering an injury that kept him out for two months
Future plans and ambitions
“Honestly, I don’t always think about playing outside, Rwanda is the best place to be and for that, I want to be the best at my position and also to win with APR and the national team,” he noted.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank my mum, she is a professional teacher and normally such parents are very strict with their children but she gave me total freedom to play.
Another person is coach Kalima, who introduced me to the sport and the late Thomas Smarts Olumbo, my coach at Laiser Hill Academy, he taught me a lot.”