03 October 2014

RWANDA : Why Espoir Basketball Club Remains Indomitable

Espoir Basketball Club might have missed the services of the recently named 2014 MVP Mike Buzangu when they tried to sign the forward, but he got snapped by Cercle Sportiff de Kigali in March this year.
Still, they remained one of the best teams in the region and they still have the best players in the country, and are favorites to win a fourth straight title next season. In June this year, the reigning champions defeated Muzinga of Burundi 85-48 in the 2014 Gisembe basketball memorial tournament.
Despite struggling in their quest for a second regional title against Kenya Ports Authority by 43-96, Espoir still managed to find a way to get the job done by continuing to repeat another milestone of retaking the play offs and league title unbeaten, just as during the previous two seasons.
The Nyamirambo-based club had won 60-50 game one and 86-66 game two in the play-offs before CSK put up a fight by winning game three by 74-63. But in game four, Espoir was indomitable and won the decider 85-54 to clinch the title.
In addition, Espoir won its third league title in a row with two matches left to the end of the season. They sealed their victory with a 79-63 victory over the Rubavu-based Gisengyi BBC, with captain Aristide Mugabe scoring a game high of 20 points for the champions.
In light of such great performances, Espoir coach Jean Bahufite has stressed that one of the reasons why Espoir has managed to keep the spirit of winning straight titles is because his players respect training sessions.
"In today's approach to better performance, players have to train in order to get better as a basketball player. Preparing to train is just as important as the training itself." Bahufite said. "Without this critical first step, you will go to court and haphazardly attempt to work on the game and athletic development with minimal results. You got to put in the time and sweat to really improve your game. We tell the players to train with the same effort and competitiveness as they do in games."
"I've always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. That is why Espoir plays to win, whether during practice or a real game," Bahufite added.
It also helps that Espoir can boast of an excellent group of star players, some of whom even feature in the national basketball team.
"The players have been a great group to work with," Bahufite said. "They play as a team, stay focused and they respect the process; as a result the process has always turned out really well this season and they again finished as champions."
The forwards Olivier Shyaka, Pascal Karekezi and Bienvenu Ngandu may not be much more than hired guns at this point in Espoir, but they remain some of the best shooters in the local league.
Shyaka has improved his three-point shooting this season and played well in the play offs. As did Pascal Karekezi. Lionel Hakizimana also played a pivotal role in the playoffs for Espoir and is a great energy guy off the bench.
Their backcourt of Aristide Mugabe grants Espoir not just the offensive options but the ability to thwart opponents. He is clearly one of the most skilled players in the league.
Speaking to Focus Sport team, captain Aristide Mugabo hailed his teammates for the efforts and sacrifice throughout the season.
"Winning two trophies this season was another milestone, which I dedicate to fans, teammates, coaching staff and club management," he remarked. "We have to play more regional friendly games to be able to compete effectively in the regional and continental championships. The more games we play, the more exposure we shall obtain at that level."
But for future success, Espoir will have to act now. Mugabo has carried the club along the way on his broad shoulders, but at some point he is going to need new future young stars to help with the heavy lifting in the future. Veteran Jean Louis Habineza's knees are also not getting any younger.
The club will have to recruit if they are to maintain their dominance.

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