In most African countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, women’s basketball is undeniably lagging behind. It is actually rare to find countries with active women leagues in this particular sport.
On the local scene, here in Rwanda, basketball for women is fairly competitive, and as far as the region is concerned, the country is not faring badly.
Though it is not at the level of men’s basketball, there are some trailblazing women defying the odds and showcasing what they can do in the sport.
Point guard Rosine Micomyiza is one of those women making a difference and inspiring the next generation in the game. The 25-year old captains local side the Hoops Rwanda and was part of the milestones they registered last year as the won the Heroes Cup and finished second in the league.
Having played in the local league and also outside Rwanda, Micomyiza has a story to tell as one of the most sought after female basketballers in the country.
Born on September 5, 1995 in Kicukiro District of the City of Kigali, Micomyiza is the first born from a family of five – four girls and one boy.
The graduate from Uganda Christian University, in Business Administration, Micomyiza says she looked up to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James in her early days in basketball.
Before devoting herself to basketball, Micomyiza says she tried many sports including athletics and football. It was not until she was in senior five of her secondary school studies, at APE Rugunga, that she dropped everything else to focus on basketball.
“I used to play football, and sometimes athletics. Basketball was the least of my interests in sport until later in my secondary school days,” she recounted in an interview with Times Sport this week. “But, since making the decision to focus on basketball alone, I never looked back.”
Micomyiza paid tribute to basketball great Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash earlier this year. Courtesy.
She further noted, “I probably would have never followed and loved if it was not for coach Alexandre Ahishakiye. He is the one noticed the potential in me and started teaching me basic basketball skills.”
Ahishakiye was the basketball coach for Micomyiza’s school ordinary level team at Saint Aloys Rwamagana, in the Eastern Province.
After a few years practicing basketball and featuring for her school in the national inter-schools championships, Micomyiza was, in 2013, invited to train with league side The Hoops Rwanda (formerly Rwandans Allied for Peace and Progress – RAPP).
After impressing the technical bench of the club, Micomyiza recalls that head Coach Moise Mutokambali visited her parents and convinced them that their daughter was in good and caring hands at RAPP. Not long after, she signed her first professional contract.
She played for the club for two seasons and inspired them to the 2014 title of the Genocide Memorial Basketball Tournament – which they also won last year – before joining Ugandan side UCU Lady Canons in early 2015.
While featuring for UCU Canons, she also pursued her university studies on a sports scholarship at Uganda Christian University (UCU) and represented the versity side for three years.
Micomyiza made instant impact at the club as she helped them to the league title of the 2015 season, and she would the Ugandan championship, in early 2019, as one of the best guards Uganda had seen in a long time.
During her successful stint in Uganda’s Women Basketball League, UCU Canons won back-to-back three championships.
“When you play in a foreign league, you have to work harder and show commitment than your teammates to earn playing time. It was not easy for me, but I knew it was the only choice and I am proud of what we were able to achieve during my three years with UCU Canons.”
Upon her return to the country, Micomyiza immediately rejoined her former club The Hoops Rwanda and captained them to the finals of the Playoffs Games where they lost 4-2 to champions APR in the best-of-seven series.
She was named on the five-member Team of the Year at the end of the 2018/19 season, and claimed the MVP award for the 2019 Agaciro Basketball Tournament in women’s category.
“We were so close to being champions [last year], this season the ultimate target is the league title. We got all it takes, we have been training hard, at individual level, during the lockdown.”
Mutokambali’s side are third on the six-team table with 7 points after four games, having won three and lost once before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and forced the league into break in March.
Micomyiza also plays for the women’s senior national team since 2013.
Advice for younger generations
For a woman to excel in basketball, Micyomyiza says, they have to be bold to look beyond barriers and stereotypes “because they are there in plenty” and young girls who aspire to play the game at the highest level should be aware of that from the very beginning.
However, she says that: “The situation keeps getting better. Younger generations now have a better chance to excel than we did. Obviously, they also have us to turn to for any guidance.”
How others describe her
Mutokambali is her coach at club level and in the national team and has seen her grow from a raw talent to ‘one of the best players’ in Rwanda’s women basketball.
“Micomyiza is one of the best players in the country. She is a good leader on the court, and very dangerous with fast attacks,” said Mutokambali, adding that “There is no limit to what she can achieve if she keeps the momentum.”Follow https://twitter.com/NkotanyiDamas