In the lead-up to the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 to be co-hosted by Senegal and Tunisia, we take a closer look at all 16 participating teams competing in the championship running from September 8-16.
NIKE FIBA World Ranking: 64th
Last participation at FIBA AfroBasket: 2013 (1 win, 4 losses) 10th-place
Best results in the history of FIBA AfroBasket: Ninth-Place at the FIBA AfroBasket 2009 in Tripoli, Libya
Qualified for FIBA AfroBasket 2017: Wild Card
History/Qualification: Playing in Tunisia this year is more than special for Rwanda as it marks 10 years since their debut at the continental competition in 2007 in Angola where they finished 12th.
Only point guard Hamza Ruhezamihigo is the surviving member of the 2007 squad and he is still going strong in the current side. He has not hidden his excitement ahead of the tip off in Tunis next week.
“This is going to be very special for me because it is a decade since Rwanda featured at the FIBA AfroBasket for the very first time,” Ruhezamihigo told FIBA.basketball in an exclusive interview.
Having missed out on the 2015 edition, Rwanda are determined to return to the big stage and assert themselves among the respected basketball nations and to do this, they have set a two-week camp in Sousse, 140km south of Tunis to acclimatize to the weather and prepare for the battle ahead.
Shooting guard Karim Nkusi from the 2007 squad is now the Rwanda assistant coach and will be picking from his rich experience as a player to help motivate the players.
Key Players: Kami Kabange and Kenneth Gasana.
At the age of 33, Kenneth Gasana is Rwanda’s dependable scoring machine of all time, aggressive on the drive and lethal behind the arc. At 6ft6in (1.97m), Gasana has the ultimate size for a shooting guard to give hime enough advantage on both offense and defense.
At the 2013 edition, Kami Kabange and Gasana played the most minutes on the floor of all the players across the 16 participating teams, a clear sign to prove their contribution to the Rwandan cause at the tournament.
Kabange, a big name on the rebounds statistics board at all the three editions he has played, will be expected to play another big role in their quest to make it to the Quarter-Finals.
Rising Players: Sedar Sagamba, Walter Nkurunziza and Parfait Ishimwe
With promotion from the Rwanda U18 side, the trio has improved and shown zeal to perform at senior team level with this opportunity to wear once again national team colors.
Their athleticism and urge to express themselves will come in handy even in the face of experienced opposition, something that will make head coach Moise Mutokambali delighted as he looks to also groom them for the future.
Outlook: As much as Rwanda is an ambitious side, their lack of depth on the bench could hurt them once again.
Kabange and Gasana seeing out almost every game with barely 10 minutes of rest combined could be a danger to their efficiency as they get into the business end of the tournament.
However, captain Aristide Mugabe and forwards Olivier Shyaka and Elie Kaje with the experience attained over the past four years should be able to step in and maintain the pace.
Possible Outcome: Reaching the Quarter-Finals would be a big achievement for Rwanda who have finished outside the last eight in their four appearances at the continental showpiece.