Rwanda: Five Things We Learned From 2021 Afrobasket Qualifiers in Kigali

1 December 2020

The just-concluded African Basketball Championships (Afrobasket) qualifiers in Kigali ended on a high and a number of lessons were learned from both participating teams and organisers.

Host nation Rwanda failed to register a single win and ended up at the bottom of Group D following their third consecutive loss against South Sudan 55-67 on Sunday, November 29.

Times Sport looks at five things that we learned from the just-concluded qualifications:

Bosnyak's poor results worry Rwandans

Pressure has now started to mount on head coach Vladimir Bosnyak due to the national team's poor run of results after failing to win a single game in the 2021 Afrobasket Qualifiers.

Despite playing on home soil, Rwanda ended the qualifiers campaign without a single win in Group D, following defeats against Mali (64-70), 62-83 against Nigeria and 55-67 against South Sudan.

The players, including skipper Olivier Shyaka, have started to question the Serb's team selection and substitutions after losing their opening game against Mali.

The tactician, for instance, left point guard Sedar Sagamba and small forward Steven Hagumintwari out of the squad in a game against Mali and instead, criticized the duo in the media that were not at their best.

Sagamba's comeback in the squad, however, proved his coach wrong after playing a key role in the remaining games against Nigeria and South Sudan.

Bosniak also needs to work with his technical staff if he is to improve his performances after he was often seen in disagreement with his assistant coaches Aime Karim Nkusi and Henry Mwinuka over his decisions on substitutes.

Rwanda misses Mugabe's leadership

The former national team skipper has not got a call up since 2018, after he reportedly complained about players' bonuses after the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Nigeria.

The 32-year-old point guard has played a pivotal role in leading Patriots BBC to three consecutive league titles as well as qualifying his side in the BAL 2020 finals.

Shyaka, who is the current captain has done well in leading the team but Mugabe's leadership and experience are qualities that the team lacked during the tournament.

Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal remain favorites

Only a few teams will wish to find themselves in the same group as either Nigeria, Tunisia or Senegal during next year's Afrobasket finals following the trio's showing in Kigali.

Tunisia are the tournament's reigning champions but are even hungrier for yet another silverware.

Mike Brown's high-flying Nigeria have also proven to be among the favorites after an excellent performance in Kigali.

Tunisia and Nigeria registered three wins out of three in Group D through key players including former 2015 NBA winner with Golden State Warriors, Festus Ezeli, as well as seven players who featured at the 2019 FIBA World Cup where Nigeria qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo.

Next year's Afrobasket will surely be theirs to lose.

Senegal, however, can't be written off as they target their first Afrobasket trophy since 1997.

South Sudan's domination will come soon

The day South Sudan Basketball Federation (SSBF) President Luol Deng decided to leave his office and coach the senior men's national team at the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers in Kigali surprised many.

South Sudan was tipped to replace Algeria in the Afrobasket Qualifiers in Kigali after the latter pulled out of the competition due to lack of sufficient preparations.

The former Chicago Bulls forward has his work cut out as the world's youngest sovereign state looks to find a place at the high table of African basketball.

Naturally, the tallest population on the continent, analysts are pitting them to dominate the hoops game in the next five years and their journey starts now and, despite losing to Nigeria in Group D, Deng's team character is already proving to be, sooner or later, a team to beat.

Only time will tell.

Rwanda puts safety first at Afro basket

Rwanda has proved ready to host the Afrobasket tournament, with or without fans, and that the safety of participating teams is guaranteed to prevent them from getting infected covid-19.

The teams were put in isolation upon arrival and no case has been reported from the squads.

The tournament was played behind closed doors and only invited guests were allowed to attend the games in line with safety guidelines to contain the spread of the pandemic.

And, when the public was allowed to attend matches, only those who tested negative watched the games.

The National Basketball Federation (FERWABA)'s excellent coordination and logistics has proven why FIBA Africa chose Rwanda to host the tournament's qualifiers and next year's finals.

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