Rwanda: Basketball – Players to watch in the Playoffs final
This This season’s playoffs will arguably be the most competitive of all time, thanks to the fact that the two teams facing each other have strengthened their rosters in an unprecedented way.
Defending champions Rwanda Energy Group (REG) brought back Cleveland Thomas Junior and Adonis Filer – the two American guards who tore through opposing defenses in this year’s edition of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) where REG finished in quarter-finals.
The duo will play alongside other players who were already in the REG ranks, including fast playmaker Jean Jacques Nshobozwabyosenumukiza, experienced Congolese center Pitchou Manga and hardworking Rwandan striker Ellie Kaje.
On the other hand, the Patriots have also invested heavily in strengthening their team for the playoffs.
Last month, they announced the capture of Chris Crawford, an American playmaker who has accumulated experience in various leagues, and Kendall Gray, an American center with formidable defensive skills.
In this article, Times Sport takes a look at some of the players to watch when the two sides meet in the best-of-five final which kicks off September 7-16 at BK Arena.
REG Cleveland Thomas Jr
Thomas, 28, plays as a shooter. He is a good passer of the ball, a thinker for the team and has the ability to score points, including good three-pointers.
During this year’s BAL, for example, he contributed a game-high 26 points as REG beat AS Sale 91-87 at the Dakar Arena in March.
He has been a key asset for REG in BAL’s Sahara Conference games, averaging 19 points per game.
Point guard Filer, 29, is arguably the most talented player in the playoffs this year.
He is an excellent ball handler, good at pick-and-roll and finds teammates on the weak side.
He’s also quick and has good athleticism, and can still conjure up those three points from long range.
His combination with Thomas, who they played a number of games together, will be one to watch, and the Patriots may have to find a solution if they want to beat REG.
Jean-Jacques Wilson Nshobozwabyosenumukiza
The 23-year-old is currently one of the best basketball players in Rwanda, due to his contribution to club and country.
Standing at 1.83m, Nshobozwa’s speed, hard work, attacking ferocity and defensive acumen make up for his diminutive nature.
Nshobozwabyosenumukiza has been named to the just concluded 2022 Basketball Africa League (BAL) All-Defensive Squad.
Nshobozwabyosenumukiza is one of the best point guards in the country and has good defensive qualities like speed and ferocity in his game.
In the BAL, he averaged 1.7 steals per game, 3.7 average defensive rebounds, 14.2 points per game and 3.5 assists per game, making him one of the best players in REG in the tournament.
The Patriots: Chris Crawford
From the top of his 1.93 m, the leader Crawford has a good size which allows him to be an asset both in attack and in defense.
He is a good goalscorer who, for example, had a solid performance for Guinea’s SLAC at BAL, where in a game against Dakar Universite Club Basketball (DUC), he scored 30 points while his team picked up an 85-70 victory.
In the same tournament, he offered a lot to SLAC, contributing 21.4 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Gray is an experienced player who has played for various teams in the United States of America, Africa and Europe.
He played college basketball for Delaware State University, and was named the 2014-15 Middle East Athletic Conference Player of the Year, becoming the fourth selection in college history. school to win this honor.
He is very good in defense. He knows how to make blocks in a timely manner, but can score points in the paint.
In the first window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers held in Dakar, Senegal in March this year, he recorded the highest efficiency rate in Rwanda (13) in the first two games while contributing 10 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots per game.
He is one of the players to watch in the playoffs.
Habimana is a player who has steadily risen over the past two or three years. He currently seems ready to shine on the big stage.
Born in Canada to Rwandan parents, the 25-year-old has been playing for the Rwandan national team since last year.
He’s a skilled guard who likes to move forward, but always thinks about passing the ball and finding someone in the corner while his team is attacking.
Recently, he showed he had come of age when he stepped up and played a major role as the Patriots beat REG in the second round of the league.
He was the MVP of the game, as he scored 18 points and made good offensive plays that created good chances for his teammates.