Espoir is currently the most skillful basketball team in Rwanda. Individually the players are multi-talented and much as it is unsaid, they will win the league title again even though the season is yet to start.
With the bulk of the national team featuring for this side, there is nothing much that the other teams can do to defeat the reigning champions especially in a series of playoff games.
The side has stayed solid with none of the key players leaving at least so far and they do not expect anyone to do so anyway. Espoir started preseason training two weeks ago and played a friendly game against UGB basketball club on Sunday morning at the KIST court with the game ending 86-48 in favour of the defending champions.
As earlier mentioned, a win for Espoir is the least of the many expectations; however, the fitness of the players after a long festive season and break for the players is what is in check.
Espoir's head coach John Bahufite mentioned that he is testing his players to see how ready they are for the very busy year ahead of them that will see them play quite more regional tournaments than last year as well as trying to dominate the domestic league once again.
Bahufite said, "We want more regional accomplishments this year and we are going to do everything that it takes to meet our set objectives."
Espoir will take part in a tournament in Nairobi next month and are hoping to lift the title to make an early statement in the East African region as early as possible ahead of Zone V that will be hosted in Kenya in August.
To achieve this dream, Espoir is in talks with Kigali Basketball Club to buy dependable shooting guard Mike Buzangu, a player who is known in the region for his attacking prowess and comfort with the ball on offense.
Buzangu played along point guard Aristide Mugabe and Lionel Hakizimana on Sunday and showed that only the sky will be the limit as they complimented each other on both offense and defense to impress Bahufite who is desperate to have the trio contest for glory outside Rwanda.
It is a matter of time that Espoir will be informed on Buzangu's availability to the reigning champions and should this mature, it will be the signing of the year.With center forward Bievenue Ngandu, the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 season, Espoir is fully aware that the national team player will take care of the boards and will dominate the put-backs considering his body size even on the African continent.
Olivier Shyaka who has improved over the past year is a good compliment to the side as well as Olivier Muhizi who has been held up with work commitments of recent.
Mugabe told Focus Sports that, "We want to continue working closely as a unit and of course we want to play to the best of our ability in any competition we take part in this year."
Mugabe, also the national team captain believes that the upcoming tournament in the Kenyan capital will be a good test of the team's ability to win anything outside Rwanda.
Espoir lifted the Zone V clubs' championship title in 2012 in Kampala, Uganda and were finalists last year after losing to archrivals and hosts Urunani from Burundi.
Looking back at that loss, Bahufite revealed that he still cannot come to terms with the way his team lost to the Burundian champions after defeating New Stars-another Burundian outfit that was a lot tougher than the former.
Bahufite said, "Sometimes we do not concentrate enough and at that stage it is about mental strength because in the past, that is how we defeated Urunani to win the 2012 Zone V trophy in Kampala."
There is no doubt that Espoir has experienced players as most of them future on the national team and have played several times at the continental level, however, in the heat of the moment, sometimes they get taken away.
In this case, against Urunani and in front of a home crowd to the hosts, it was such a tense moment that sometimes they missed easy lay-ups and did not do much on defense to stop the Urunani duo of Elvis Hakizimana and former APR guard Blaze Nikobahoze that led the scoring for the eventual winners.
It is this weakness that Bahufite is currently working on to make sure his side becomes a major threat in East Africa this year.
This can be achieved with the signing of Buzangu whose partnership with Mugabe and Hakizimana will be absolutely unstoppable in Rwanda and in the region as well.