Rwanda national hoops team begins their quest for a slot in next year’s FIBA World Cup when they take on hosts Mali in the first window of the African qualifiers on Friday in Bamako.
Rwanda will be aiming to reach the 12-team second-round of the African Qualifiers and they will take their chances later in the competition.
The team managed by Coach Moise Mutokambali begins their quest against hosts Mali in the opening game of Group B due at 18:00 in Bamako.
Rwanda wants to stage a winning start to be able to achieve their target of finishing among the top three in this opening window according to head coach Mutokambali.
“Our mission is to win all respective fixtures and to do we have to win the opening game against Mali. Players are ready for the contest, we know it won’t be easy but we head to Bamako for serious business, winning and not just participation,” said Mutokambali before the team’s departure to Bamako early this week.
With a solid squad, Rwanda will rely on their leading scorer in recent years, US-born Gasana Kenneth who features for Morocco’s Magreb de Fes knows too well what it takes to go up against some of Africa heavyweights.
The 33-year old shooting guard will steer Rwanda’s quest against Malian side who will be led by Mahamadou Kante who plays in the FUS Rabat in Morocco.
Speaking to FIBA.basketball recently, Gasana said, “I’m excited about the group we are playing in because it will be tough competition.”
“As with all teams in the qualifying stage, the goal is to advance to the second stage. We must prepare and play to win each game at a time.”
“We all know of the history with Nigeria and would expect nothing less of high-level basketball. Mali will be very tough especially with the country behind them for each game. There will be no surprises with Uganda as they have been good rivals with us for some time now. I expect our guys to be locked in and prepared for the challenges in front of us,” Gasana explained.
Hosts Mali have been boosted by the return of Souarata Cisse to the squad. The 6ft5in (1.96m) forward led Mali in scoring with almost 11 points per game at FIBA AfroBasket 2015.
In an earlier game, regional rivals Uganda take on Nigeria at 15:00. Ike Diogu, who led Nigeria in scoring at FIBA AfroBasket championships in 2013 and 2017, is set to lead a team that also includes Michael Efevberha, who powered Nigeria’s offense with a team-high 17.4 points per game in the 2009 edition of FIBA Africa’s flagship tournament in Libya.
Uganda’s Silverbacks are not a push-overs in this tournament as they hope to bank on point guard Joshua Johnson who plays for Ipswich Town’s, who will be making his first appearance for the Uganda for the first time since the FIBA AfroBasket 2015, alongside forward Brandon Sebirumbi who plies his trade for Aomori Wats in Japan and Sweden-based shooting guard Samuel Kakooza.
Group D will also be in action in Maputo with Senegal, Central African Republic, hosts Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire all vying for qualification spots.
At stake in the African Qualifiers are five tickets on offer for the continent’s countries to reach the first-ever 32-team FIBA Basketball World Cup taking place in China from August 30-September 15, 2019.
FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers
Friday 23rd February 2018
Group B First Leg
Uganda vs Nigeria (15:30)
Rwanda vs Mali (18:00)
Group D First Leg
Senegal vs Central African Republic (16:30)
Mozambique vs Cote d’Ivoire (19:00)
Saturday, 24 February 2018
Nigeria vs Rwanda (15:30)
Mali vs Uganda (18:00)
Cote d’Ivoire vs Senegal (15:00)
Central African Republic vs Mozambique (17:30)
Sunday, 25th February, 2018
Uganda vs Rwanda (15:30)
Mali vs Nigeria (18:00)
Cote d’Ivoire vs Central African Republic (15:00)
Senegal vs Mozambique (17:30)