Patriots eye spot in new FIBA AfroLeague

Patriots’ captain Aristide Mugabe will lead his side during FIBA Africa Zone 5 qualifiers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Sam Ngendahimana)

PATRIOTS, the national basketball league champions, will be eyeing a place in the newly introduced FIBA AfroLeague that will attract zonal winners and runners up from across Africa.

Its inaugural edition is set to tip off in January 2019.

Ahead of the FIBA Africa Zone 5 qualifiers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from September 30 through to October 7, last year’s finalists Patriots feel that now is their time to shine.

In the absence of the reigning champions City Oilers, from Uganda, who cited unpreparedness, Patriots have an upper hand on paper to conquer the East African region.

Patriots captain Aristide Mugabe, who also doubles as Rwanda national team skipper, has acknowledged the challenge that lies ahead but believes that they have what it takes to make amends from last year and go on to win.

With three players fresh from the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers in Lagos including Mugabe, guard Sedar Sagamba and small forward Dieudonne Ndayisaba, Patriots will have a lot of experience in their back court.

The efficiency of forwards Michael Makiadi, Junior Songo and Steven Havugintwari will come in handy inside the paint if Patriots are to consider themselves title contenders.

However, with the 2016 African champions Al Ahly and Smouha, from Egypt, confirming their participation in the zonal competition, Patriots find themselves up against tough opposition with a lot of experience and squad depth.

But that is not to worry Mugabe, who has over the years taken on North African opposition at both club and country level, and is ready to lead his side to the top spot.

He, nevertheless, agrees that they will spice up the tournament and raise the bar high.

He said, “That is tough opposition for sure but we are ready. We will go out there and compete.”

“We want to win the tournament. It is not about City Oilers or Patriots. It is about who is prepared and ready. If we have a good team and are well prepared, we can beat anyone. “

A total of 10 teams have confirmed their participation in the men’s category, including Al Ahly and Smouha (Egypt), Ethiopia Water and Wolekite City (Ethiopia), Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Strathmore (Kenya), Patriots and REG (Rwanda) as well as JKT and Oilers from Tanzania.

The top two teams will qualify for the 16-team FIBA AfroLeague.