24 August, 2021
05 September
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AfroBasket 2021 - Team Profile: Rwanda

KIGALI (Rwanda) - Very few FIBA AfroBasket hosts have won the tournament in the last two decades, now it's Rwanda's turn to try to challenge the course of events.

Tunisia won the trophy in 2017 at home, but that success came after finishing third two years earlier in front of their home crowd. Angola won the trophy in 2007 at home.

A mid-table team, Rwanda are far from being a heavyweight on the continent, but like many teams in this year's AfroBasket, they can't be underestimated.

Here are some key facts about Rwanda:

Team: Rwanda.
FIBA Ranking Men
: 91st (World); 13th (Africa).
Last participation in the AfroBasket: 2017 (1 win, 2 defeats; 10th place).
Best result at AfroBasket: Ninth-Place at the FIBA AfroBasket 2009 in Tripoli, Libya.
How they qualified for the 2021 AfroBasket: Qualified as hosts of the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 although Rwanda finished 1-5 in Group D of the Qualifiers.
World: Rwanda have never played at world stage competitions. 
Youth teams impact: The country youth teams have produced some key members for their senior team.

The likes of Gasana Sano and Jean Jacques Nshobozwabyosenumukiza have played for Rwanda youth teams, and the pair appears as some of the most recognised names emerging from Rwanda youth programmes. 

Rwanda finished fifth as hosts of FIBA U18 African Championship 2016. Two years later, they won four of their seven games in Bamako finishing sixth. 

Jean Jacques Nshobozwabyosenumukiza

The country's Basketball Federation (FERWABA) has become one of the most dynamic not only in the East Africa region, but also in Africa.

Boasting a state-of-the-art Kigali Arena, Rwanda starts to become a basketball hub on the continent.

History/Qualification: This will be Rwanda's sixth AfroBasket appearance since their debut in the tournament in 2007. Rwanda missed out the 2015 edition of the tournament.

Key Players: It's almost impossible to discuss the Rwandan team without a mention to Keneth Gasana to Kami Kabange. Both players have competed at AfroBasket four times each, and look strong options for the upcoming AfroBasket in their capital of Kigali. 

Rising Star: Jean Jacques Nshobozwabyosenumukiza made his introduction to international basketball at FIBA U18 African Championship held in Kigali. Since then, the 23-year-old guard has become a valuable option for the Rwandans. 

Nshobozwabyosenumukiza has so been vital for his team, that he made his name heard even louder when he established a FIBA Africa record for most steals (14) in a single during the AfroBasket Qualifiers 2021 in a game that Rwanda beat South Sudan 62-58 in February 2021. 

New addition: Prince Ibeh made his Rwanda men's team debut in February 2021. The 2.06m (6ft 9in) center became a massive addition to the Rwandans, especially because of his aggressiveness to protect the rim, rebounding ability and ferocity to attack the basket. 

Prince Chinenye Ibeh

After playing two games in the Qualifiers earlier this year, he share his experience with the THEBAL website, noting that "It was a good experience. It was my first time in a AfroBasket competition and it was great being around those guys, especially when we won the game [against South Sudan], and that’s what made us more happy, the way the impact had on people and the country. We are really making an impact on things, and it changes the way basketball is viewed here and I am happy to be part of the growth."

Head coach: Senegalese Cheikh Sarr started working with the Rwandan team in February but was only confirmed as their head coach in May. 

Sarr has become the team's third head coach over the last year after the departure of Vladimir Bosnjak in November. The Senegalese has replaced interim coach Henry Mwinuka. 

Sarr has been around the AfroBasket fraternity for over a decade. After serving as Senegal assistant coach to Frenchman Alain Weisz at AfroBasket 2011, he took the helm two years later, leading his native Senegal to the Third-Place of the AfroBasket held in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. A year later, Sarr's Senegal caused one of the biggest surprises after beating Croatia in the Group Phase of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 in Spain. 

Under Sarr, Senegal advanced to the knock-out stages, but fell to hosts Spain the Eight-Finals in Madrid.

Senegal's Sarr finished fourth at AfroBasket 2015. Four years later, Sarr guided Senegal to the Second-Place of the FIBA Women's AfroBasket staged in Dakar.

Sarr was in charge of the Rwandan team during Zone 5 Qualifiers for the Women's AfroBasket 2021.

Outlook: Rwanda will face a challenge for the ages in the Group A, where they will go up against Angola, Cape Verde and Democratic Republic. 

To defend their home-court is Rwanda's top priority, but moving out of the Group Phase is even more important for the hosts. 

There isn't a single easy group in this tournament, and coach Sarr will need to bring his expertise to his best in order to keep his team in contention as long as they can.