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D1 Standings
 1 REG 5-0 
 2 Patriots 4-0 
 3 Espoir 2-1 
 4 IPRC-Kigali 2-1 
 5 APR 1-2 
 6 Rusizi 1-3 
 7 UGB 1-3 
 8 IPRC-South 0-3 
 9 UR 0-3 


First Round Schedule
Rusizi Dec.2 REG 70%
IPRC-South Dec.1 REG 84%
UGB Nov.30 Espoir 62%
Patriots 70% Nov.30 IPRC-Kigali
Check Full Games/Schedule
Niyonkuru on his rise and love for basketball - Dec 7, 2018

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Pascal Niyonkuru (193-PF-95) is often overlooked in player rankings and similar conversations but the shooting guard remains one of the best - if not the best - rebounders in local basketball. The 26-year old returned to Bank of Kigali National Basketball League side APR last month on a two-year deal after three years with Espoir, and has since vowed 'I will do all I can to help APR win the league title again. The military side have not won the league title since 2010. Niyonkuru started his league career with APR in 2013 and featured for them for three years before crossing to Espoir in 2015, shortly after the Nyamirambo-based side clinched the last of their four consecutive league titles since 2012. Saturday Sports'Damas Sikubwabocaught up with Niyonkuru this week to talk about his journey and passion for basketball.

Who is Niyonkuru?
Born to Silver Kayiranga (RIP) and Theresia Musabyeyezu on April 24, 1992 in Nyarugenge District, Niyonkuru is the third child from a family of five; two girls and three boys.
Niyonkuru was a football player since his boyhood and during primary school years at Saint Famille until his first encounter with a basketball at Aparud Secondary School, a few weeks after joining the Ruhango District-based school. 'I never tried basketball during my early age, especially because access to its facilities was almost impossible,' Niyonkuru told this publication. Since then, he progressively started to ditch football for basketball and in less than one year, he was already featuring for the school's O'level team. He also played for Saint Joseph Kabgayi during his senior 5 before switching to Kicukiro District based Efotek Kanombe in his final year of secondary school from where he earned his certificate of completion in the majors of history, economics and geography, in 2014. Niyonkuru is currently enrolled at the University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies (UTB) where he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in transport and logistics management. The 1.95m tall Niyonkuru is an avid fan of NBA's Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.

Early days in basketball
His start to life in basketball was not a smooth one. It was full of self-doubt, but, thanks to one of his former sports teachers who inspired him to take advantage of his height, he made it to the top. He says, 'You know in schools, there are normally co-curricular activities including different sports, so mine was football until one day my sports teacher encouraged me that I could make a better basketballer than I would ever a footballer. And that's it. That is how I got into basketball.'

Rise to the top
Niyonkuru's first serious competition was the 2011 regional post-primary games - also known as FEASSSA Games - in Mbarara, Uganda. At the time he represented Saint Joseph Kabgayi team. The team was under the tutelage of former national team head coach Moise Mutokambali. Despite being knocked out in the last four, Niyonkuru says that, 'The tournament opened my eyes wider and made me love basketball more. Before that travel, I did not think I would play beyond the secondary school level.' Shortly after the Mbarara FEASSSA Games 2011, Niyonkuru was named in the national U18 team that represented the country at the 2012 FIBA Africa U18 Championships in Maputo, Mozambique where Rwanda finished at the bottom of the 11-team tournament. It is after shining in the FEASSSA Games and Afrobasket U18 competitions that APR spotted Niyonkuru before signing him in 2013, a team he would feature for till end of the 2015 season. He left the black and white outfit without winning a single trophy. During his three-year stint with Espoir, Niyonkuru inspired the Nyamirambo-based side to one silverware - the local edition's title of the 2017 Genocide Memorial Tournament after stunning Rwanda Energy Group (REG) in the final. He also helped the six-time national champions to finishing third in the national league three times and two times in the Play-off, including the 2017/2018 season. Arguably the most entertaining - and dramatic - player in the country, Niyonkuru was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the National Heroes Day tournament in February this year. Niyonkuru was part of the national senior team that beat Mali and Uganda in Nigeria to reach the second round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup due in China.

Best moment
Having played countless games since his league debut in 2013, Niyonkuru says that his sweetest victory remains Espoir's stunning 100-77 victory over then champions REG in January this year as they became the first team to beat the red and black giants in the league, in 14 months. 'We were at our worst, losing game after another. No one thought we would stand a chance against such a strong team. I think REG underestimated, and consequently paid for it.' Niyonkuru contributed 17 points to the victory.
Courtesy of:   

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