KIGALI (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Rwanda's small forward Olivier Shyaka can't wait to make his second FIBA AfroBasket appearance in August.
As FIBA Africa confirmed Rwanda as one of the two wild card recipients for this summer's FIBA AfroBasket, in Kigali, 21-year-old Shyaka celebrated a "chance of competing against Africa's best."
By losing to local rivals Uganda and Egypt in last month's FIBA Africa Zone 5 qualifier in Cairo, Rwanda were denied automatic qualification for the 16-team FIBA Africa showpiece.
However, for the second straight time in their basketball history, Rwanda benefited from an invitation from the governing body of basketball on the African continent.
"It's a great feeling to think that we are going to play against the best players in Africa," Shyaka said to FIBA.com.
The 1.98m forward made his FIBA AfroBasket debut four years ago at the age of 18 as one of the youngest players in the tournament along with Egypt's Anas Mahmoud (18) and Bienvenu Nissao (17) of Burkina Faso.
Now, the Espoir BBC captain feels ready for the FIBA AfroBasket challenge.
"We are not going to the FIBA AfroBasket to make up numbers, we are going there to win games," he offered.
Even Uganda, now the dominant force in the East Africa, could feel Shyaka's firepower.
"They beat us twice recently, but things will be different this summer. We lost the qualifier in Cairo because we didn't prepare well enough. If we meet at FIBA AfroBasket, we'll beat them I can promise.
"If you play without fear, you can win games at FIBA AfroBasket. I feel I can play against any player now. Since the FIBA AfroBasket four years ago, my game has become a lot better."
Shyaka is not the only one expressing delight about their wild card invitation.
In an interview with local paper Times Sport, Rwanda head coach Moise Mutokambali said: "I am delighted we got this ticket because it is based on merit and I think despite the disappointing performance in the Zone V championship, we really deserved to be there.
"In Egypt, we lost to both Uganda and Egypt basically because of some technical errors, but we were always a team with the best game. I hope we are going to prepare for FIBA AfroBasket rigorously and as early as possible, I believe we shall have a successful campaign.”
So far, 15 national teams are confirmed for the FIBA AfroBasket 2017. These teams are Nigeria, Angola, Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Egypt, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique and South Africa.