AFTER weeks of preparation, Rwanda opens her 2009 Afrobasket campaign with a tough game against Morocco this evening.
The game, scheduled for 9.30pm Rwandan time in Tripoli’s state of the art Gurtouba Hall will be one of two games scheduled on Day one. The other will be a Group A contest between hosts Libya and South Africa.
There were smiles all around after the senior national basketball team touched down in Tripoli two days ago. The team heads into the 10-day event with plenty of confidence following a tip-top display in Italy.
Rwanda played two build-up games against a Milan Select side (99-73) and Turkey (79-73). The Turkey result gave national coach Kavedzija Vaceslav a clear picture of what to expect from the Moroccans, who lost to Turkey in their final build–up game.
That put aside, one of Rwanda’s toughest challenges today will be to overcome the Moroccans’ height. The Moroccans’ average height is 198cm/6’6” while the Rwandan’s are struggling to even hit 6’1”.
Morocco, champions in 1965, is also a very experienced unit after an enviable 15 appearances compared to the Rwandan side that is only making a second appearance in the coveted tournament.
In the run in to Rwanda’s Group D opener, the team’s shooting forward Karim Nkusi said, “I think as a team we have to be confident in our abilities as individuals first and as a team.
“Our focus as a team is to make sure we do everything our coaches have put out there for us. We feel we have the talent to go out there and execute everything, so are very confident.”
“Like Coach Vaceslav said, we feel this is going to be a break through tournament for us because the competition is at its best, the international teams are at their best,” added Rwanda’s centers Fiston Muhire.
The competition has attracted Africa’s top 16 nations and a lot is at stake because on top of playing for the highest honour in African basketball, the top three will also qualify for the three African slots that grant participation in the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
The gold, silver and bronze medal winners of Afrobasket 2009 will book a ticket to the world’s greatest basketball event in Turkey next summer.