Basketball is one of the most popular sports in Rwanda. Previously foreign players were the most celebrated basketball stars in the country, but this has gradually changed with more and more Rwandan youths embracing the sport.
The country is now witnessing a new breed of homegrown talented male and female basketball players. Some of these players are students. Martine Umuhoza is one of them. She is a University of Rwanda student who now plies her trade with IPRC-South having previously played for APR Basketball Club. She also plays for the national team.
Born in 1995 to Dorothy Mukampunga and Gregoire Munyakayanza in Nyarugenge District, Kigali City, Martine Umuhoza is the third child in a family of five. She attended St Charles primary school in Nyamirambo, Kigali, before moving to St Bernard Kansi for her O-Level. She later obtained her A-Level certificate from NVB Karubanda majoring in Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology. Umuhoza is now a fourth year student pursuing Finance at University of Rwanda-Huye Campus.
The 24-year-old thought football was the right sport for her, and she says that from primary one to five football was the sport that interested her.
“I thought I would be one of the best female footballers in Rwanda,” she said, adding that she featured for all her primary school football teams.
However, in primary six, her English teacher encouraged and diverted her into playing basketball. It was her new English teacher at St Charles who first noticed little Umuhoza’s potential in basketball.
“At first I hesitated but next day I carried my sports equipment, and eventually devoted myself to basketball until I even captained St Charles women basketball team.”
The now Rwandan international says that her mother did not discourage her from taking the path of basketball, rather she motivated her in every circumstances. In secondary school, she met the URB coach at the time Charles Mushumba who helped her hone the talent.
“It was during one of our long holidays when I met Mushumba, the current IPRC-South basketball head coach, and he told me that I could play basketball at high level,” she recalls.
Despite being still in secondary five at Karubanda, Umuhoza joined UR women basketball team in 2015 to reinforce them – UR was playing national league at that time. She admits that her constant training did not only bring the best out of her but it kept her on form as well.
“I developed a habit of not missing any training session and this became my secret.”
Umutoni played for UR Huye Campus basketball team for two successive seasons juggling between studies and basketball.
The basketball star says following a strict schedule has helped her to attend to studies and sports without any of the two suffering.
“It is up to you to know when to do what. Playing basketball helps me in my studies because sport refreshes the mind and boosts academic performance as well,” she says.
Umuhoza says that she always carries notebooks with her on a bus whenever they travel for games.
“I am not ashamed of revising my notes on the team bus,” she says.
In 2015, she participated in regional zone 5 tournament with Ubumwe basketball team in Tanzania, while in 2016, she took part in zone 5 championships with U18 Rwanda women basketball team in Uganda.
“I am very keen on playing abroad. I have passed tests in the region but unfortunately, nothing happened.”