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Rwanda’s Gasana excited about February Qualifiers

Kenneth Gasana is urging his Rwanda national team colleagues to get ready for the this month’s first-leg of Group B of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers in Bamako, Mali.

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12 Kenneth Gasana (RWA) - Guinea v Rwanda, 2017 FIBA AfroBasket Final Round, Tunis(TUN), Group Phase, 8 September 2017

Rwanda aim to reach the 12-team second-round of the African Qualifiers and they will take their chances later in the competition.

And the man who has become the team’s leading scorer in recent years, knows too well what it takes to go up against some of Africa heavyweights.

From February 23-25, Rwanda will face former Africa champions Nigeria, hosts Mali and archrivals Uganda at an event that will mark Rwanda’s first appearance since they claimed a 1-2 mark at last year’s FIBA AfroBasket.

"I’m excited about the group we are playing in because it will be tough competition," Gasana said to FIBA.basketball.

"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.

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Kenneth Gasana averaged 10.7 points and a team-high four assists per game at FIBA AfroBasket 2017

Ever since US-born Gasana made his debut with the Yellow-and-Blue jersey at FIBA AfroBasket 2009, he has won the hearts of Rwandans.

And, the prospect of helping his country succeed against higher ranked African teams would be cherry on the cake.

"Playing for the National team has been an honor and I have been proud to do so. It is a great feeling to know you are playing for something more important than yourself," the 33-year-old shooting guard said.

Rwanda may not rank among the favorites to secure one of the five tickets for African countries for the 32-team FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, but Gasana, who currently plays for Moroccan side Maghreb de Fes (MAS), insists that "the competition [African Qualifiers] can be a great platform for the growth of basketball in Rwanda, especially with the youth."

Both, Olivier Shyaka and Aristide Mugabe emerge among some of Rwanda promising players, and Gasana couldn’t be any prouder of them.

"When I first started competing these guys were very young, and now to see their growth as players is very impressive. I know the basketball program will be in good hands for the future," he said.

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Uganda finished second behind FIBA Africa Zone 5 champions Egypt to qualify for FIBA AfroBasket 2017

Rwanda and Uganda have recently performed some epic rivalries in the East Africa region with the latter claiming direct qualification to the FIBA AfroBasket 2017, while Rwanda needed a wildcard invitation to take part in the FIBA Africa’s premier basketball competition.

"Uganda has a good run for the recent years," Gasana acknowledged, adding "Although it was hard for us to lose to them, it is good to show that teams in East Africa can compete with all teams in Africa."

Jimirasire

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