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The journey that changed Turatsinze Olivier’s life

On the 8th of September 2023, in front of many fans at the BK Arena, Turatsinze Olivier was announced as the best player of the year, also having scored the most points.

Turatsinze achieved this after helping Espoir BBC finish third in the championship and scoring 521 points.

This young man from Rubavu district is one of those blessed with basketball talent, even though his hometown is better known for producing soccer talents.

In a conversation we had, Turatsinze reflected on various aspects of his life, how he got into basketball and other subjects.

Like many kids in Rubavu, Turatsinze Olivier initially played street soccer but was introduced to basketball while accompanying his elders.

He said, “In Gisenyi, we all start by playing soccer, but the places we played were near the church with many courts, so I ended up watching my elders play. Eventually, I got into basketball.”

In 2013, he seriously took up basketball after he was invited to play in Kigali.

He said, “In 2013, Coach Makombe Charles took me to the Rafiki Kids tournament. It was the first time I traveled to Kigali for sports. I found it easy and decided to continue playing basketball.”

“Later, I went to study at IPRC Kigali, where Coach Mwiseneza Maxime saw me during a Giants of Africa event and recruited me to Espoir BBC. That’s how my journey began. In 2020, after high school, I continued at IPRC Kigali for my university studies, then returned to play for Espoir BBC in 2022.”

In addition to being the Player of the Year, Turatsinze also led in several statistical categories, including most points, second in three-pointers, steals, assists, and two-point shots.

He said his training focuses on aspects that help the team perform well in matches.

He said, “It’s not that I train more than others; it’s God’s grace and timing. In my gameplay, I try to contribute in all ways, from defense to assists to scoring. I particularly focus on ball handling, scoring, and defending.”

2023 was a special year for Turatsinze as he was selected for the National Men’s Team and performed well internationally, placing third in the African Championship.

He emphasized the importance of nurturing young talent and said, “There are challenges, but they’re improving, especially with a focus on the young, building more courts, and showcasing the beauty of basketball. For instance, I was lucky to play in a team while still young and play alongside older players. I believe it’s important to support children from primary school, but overall, we are on the right path.”

Basketball for players under 23 is a recent development in Rwanda, and Turatsinze is among the top players in Africa, ranking third in the 2023 rankings.

He said, “In the under-23 basketball, I compete with those under 23 and even older players. Among the youth, I was the best in East Africa and third in all of Africa.”

After a successful year with Espoir BBC, many teams are interested in Turatsinze. When asked about his future, he said he has a contract with this Nyamirambo team.

He said, “A player goes where he’s valued. I’ve loved Espoir BBC since I was a child, and they continue to support me. For now, I’m still with Espoir BBC as I have a contract.”

Apart from playing basketball, Turatsinze is a student at ULK University studying Civil Engineering and is in his third year.

He explained how he balances his studies with basketball, admitting it’s not easy.

He said, “It’s challenging, but life isn’t straightforward. Fortunately, most matches are on weekends when we don’t have classes. The real challenge is timing, as I attend morning training near my home, go to school, and in the evening, I have team training.”

Outside of the court, Turatsinze Olivier is deeply religious, raised in the Catholic Church, where he used to serve, but now has limited time.

One of Turatsinze’s hobbies is watching various basketball games, and he’s also a big fan of APR FC and Manchester United in England.

Straight out of Twitter