A little over a decade ago, basketball was one of the less known and less recognized sport disciplines in the country. And when it started attracting some attention and building up a fan base, it was a platform for foreign players to show off, both in the national league and the national team.
However, the trend progressively got to change. Locals learned from foreigners they played with or against, some learned from those they watched playing.
Today, there are less foreign-born players in the national championship and national team than ever and there is no doubt nationals still learn from the few remaining.
Point is, there was very little space for Rwandan youngsters to dream and actually believe they can make it to the top. Today, we have a new breed of sensational local basketball players for the young ones to look up to and one of them is none other than Patriots point-guard, Sedar Sagamba.
Saturday Sport’s Richard Bishumba talked to the 26-year old Sagamba about his basketball journey and plan for the future.
Who is Sagamba?
Born to Ernest Giraso and Jeannette Nyirambibi on April 1, 1991 in South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sagamba is the fourth-born child from a family of six, three boys and three girls.
He attended Ecole Primaire Gihundwe A in Kamembe, Rusizi and went to EAV Ntendenzi in South-West of the country from senior one to senior five before relocating to Saint Joseph Kagbayi in 2011 for senior six where he completed his high school studies in Mathematics-Chemistry-Biology.
Sagamba holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from Saint Lawrence University of Kampala, Uganda.
Before committing to basketball, Sagamba tried football like any other kid raised in rural areas where only soccer facilities are easily accessible. In secondary school, he also tried table tennis and reached national level finals in inter-school championships but never won any medal in the sport.
Moderately calm, Sagamba derived his interest and passion for basketball from his elder brother Patrick Mutabazi, a veteran, who played for K.I.E and Rusizi in the national basketball league in the early 2000s.
Sagamba first got hold of a basketball in 2005, learning the basics, rules, moves and fundamentals of the sport. Ever since, there was no going back. Like they say, the rest is history.
From 2006 to 2008, Sagamba was an integral player for EAV Ntendezi O’level basketball team but unfortunately never won any title with the youth team.
In 2010, he helped the school’s A-level team to reach quarter-finals of the national inter-schools championship but sadly, lost to Lycee de Kigali (LDK), who went on to win the title.
It was not over for him; in 2011 he moved to Saint Joseph Kagbayi in Muhanga district on a sports scholarship and helped the school to win the national inter-schools championship after overcoming LDK in the final.
By denying LDK in the final, Saint Joseph Kabgayi qualified for the regional FEASSSA Games held in Mbarara, Uganda where they were knocked out in the round of last eight.
“As a high school basketball player, 2011 was the year I enjoyed most. The revenge against LDK was a sweet one. It is the same year that I made my debut in the national basketball league. Thanks to coach Jean Bahufite,” Sagamba said in exclusive interview with this paper on Thursday.
After finishing high school, then 20-year-old Sagamba signed for one season but was not a regular for the club in the league until late 2012 when he moved to Uganda for academic reasons.
Managing studies and basketball in Uganda
For the four year he lived in Uganda, Sagamba learned how to simultaneously manage his studies and play basketball, and excel at both.
He played for Saint Lawrence University team both in inter-universities league and in the Ugandan national basketball league.
In 2013, Sagamba signed for Sharing Basketball Club which he helped to win the Ugandan second division league and got promoted to the topflight division.
After an impressive season at Sharing BC, he was hijacked by Warriors the following year, where he stayed for two years, 2014 and 2015 before joining Ndejje University Basketball Club for the 2016 season.
While at Warriors, Sagamba helped the club reach semi-finals of the national basketball league in 2015, the same year, he won the top scorer’s award with Saint Lawrence University in the inter-universities championship.
Return to Rwanda
After a four-year spell in Ugandan basketball, Sagamba returned to Rwanda in November 2016 and was immediately snapped up by Patriots Basketball Club. APR was among other clubs, who expressed interest his signature.
After penning a two-year contract with the then reigning champions, the point-guard went on to guide the Kagugu-based club to win the pre-season tournament, and played an important role in pushing the club to finish second in the league and claiming the play-off title.
Sagamba also helped the team reach the final of this year’s FIBA Africa Zone 5 Championship in Kampala, Uganda but lost to hosts City Oilers.
New season, new ambitions
As the new season starts, Sagamba has set ambitious goals for him to achieve in the 2017/2018 season, some of which will need collective effort as a team. The soft-spoken Sagamba wants to help his club win the league title and Zone 5 Championship among other major titles.
On individual level, the former Rusizi BC point-guard eyes glorious accolades as the season’s best guard, top-scorer and MVP. He also eyes to be the best guard in Zone 5 tournament, hence the best guard in the region.
“I want my basketball to go beyond Rwandan borders; I want to be the best guard in the region. This season will absolutely leave me a different player, I have high ambitions to keep me on my toes and I believe anything is possible with discipline and hard work,” Sagamba told Saturday Sport.
Asked about where he wants to see his career before he retires, Sagamba replied, “Financially, basketball in the region is still struggling, hence making it difficult for players to fully commit to it as a full-time profession.”
“But before I retire, I would love to have been a full-pro basketballer, even if it’s for one season. It’s something I would really enjoy doing,” he disclosed.
National team duty
Former EP Gihundwe pupil has one cap to his name in the national team, which came at this year’s FIBA African Basketball Championship, (Men’s Afrobasket), held in Senegal and Tunisia in September where Rwanda was eliminated at the group stage.
Hosts Tunisia claimed the continental showpiece after defeating defending champions Nigeria, 77-65 in the final.
“I thank head coach Moise Mutokambali for believing in me and giving me the ultimate honor to represent my country. Despite failing to make it to knock-out stages, it was a good experience for me as a beginner in the national team and I strongly believe I will do much better next time,” he noted.
Sagamba said, “There are a lot of people who have helped me to make it this far. But to make the list short, I sincerely thank three coaches; Bahufite, Mutokambali and Cliff Owuor who have been so pivotal to me.”
“And finally, I appreciate a lot my captain Aristide Mugabe. I learnt a lot from him since my early days in basketball.”
Asked about his role models in the game, Sagamba, mentioned Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dywane Wade and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.