BY JULIUS MBARAGA
AFTER a stellar display in the first round of this year’s national basketball league, Marine’s Elibo Ilunga has been rewarded with a call up on the 17-man provisional national team for this year’s Afrobasket competition in Libya.
The shooting guard has earned a reputation as one of the better players in the league, both on the offensive side and defensive side of the ball. His ability to penetrate to the basket whenever he wants to, find his teammates and score freely is the reason Marine ended their first round campaign in second place behind league champions APR.
He averaged over 20 points per game making him one of the league’s top scorers. Ilunga will fight for a starting place with APR’s Karim Nkusi and Espoir’s veteran Valery Uwineza although Rwanda’s sensational Hamza Ruhezamihigo can also play as a two-man.
Rwanda’s head coach Vaceslav Kavedzija has kept faith in Uwineza despite a shaky first round league display. Other notable inclusions in the team include Robert Thomson and Marine’s Aboubacar Barame among others.
The team, who started training on Sunday are holding two daily sessions; in the morning (8am-11am) and evening (6pm-8pm).
The FIBA Africa Nations Championship (Afrobasket Libya 2009) is slated for August 5-15 in Tripoli, Libya and Rwanda has targeted a top eight finish. “With early preps and the players we have, we should atleast make the quarter-finals. Anything short of that will be below par,” the national basketball federation president Eric Kalisa recently stated.
Rwanda, the only East African nation to ever play in the competition will be making her second appearance in the biannual event after a historic debut in 2007 where she finished 12th.
The top three nations in the event will earn tickets to next year’s FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
Aboubacar Barame, Aristide Mugabe, Gaylord Ndugu, Hamza Ruhezamihigo, Fiston Muhire, Mike Buzangu, Elibo Ilunga, Umande Mwanapua, Karim Aime Nkusi, Albert Rukundo, Serge Kabangu, Kami Kabange, Robert Thomson, Patrick Cyenge, Danys Kirenga, Valery Uwineza and Leonel Hakizimana.