From Tyra Forde, Laurier Golden Hawks Athletics
“Watching NBA basketball has always been a part of my life and it drove me to become the best player I can be.”
Since he was young, Mississauga, Ont., native Ntore Habimana has wanted to shoot hoops. “I am a very competitive person,” he explains. That competitive spirit originally led Habimana to consider an NCAA Division II school in South Carolina for his athletic and academic career, but he ultimately decided to become a guard for the Golden Hawks and communication studies major.
“My plan B was to play OUA basketball [but] looking back, I believe the route I ended up taking was the better one. As a walk-on I had to prove my worth, [which] took some time, but it ended up working out.” Five years later, his decision to try-out for the purple and gold proved to be a golden decision.
He was also inspired by a familiar face on the team. “A close friend, Sydney Davis [(Mississauga, Ont.)], was already on the roster,” Habimana says. “He spoke very highly of the program and the school… I got in contact with [Head Coach] Justin [Serresse] and the rest was history.”
“My favourite part about the experience would have to be having the best regular season record in Laurier men’s basketball history. It really put a stamp on our 2018-2019 roster and that will live on for years to come.”
Many memories will stay fresh in Habimana’s mind when he graduates this year, including experiences at home and abroad: “I would say the best memory however would be the whole trip to France. To be able to travel overseas with the team created a great bond and great memories that will last forever.”
His time on the international stage is far from over as he has his sights set on playing professional basketball after graduation. While the COVID-19 pandemic has paused play in Ontario for student-athletes, Habimana has had the unique opportunity to travel to play while representing his father’s country or origin, Rwanda, as a member of their men’s national team.
“I was selected for the second-round qualifiers and also invited to the championship tournament in August,” he explains. “The experience in February was very surreal. I never really thought about playing for the national team until the opportunity was introduced to me. To be able to represent a whole country is an opportunity not too many people have, and I make sure to not take it for granted.”
Rwanda went 0-3 through the first window of qualifying games in November 2020 and saw higher success with a 1-2 record in the second window in February 2021, where they faced Mali, Nigeria, and South Sudan in Monastir, Tunisia. From August 17 to 29, 2021, Rwanda will host the FIBA AfroBasket championships.
“I am very excited for what is to come in August,” Habimana says. “Because Rwanda is hosting this event, I feel the need to work even harder and fully prepare myself for the championship. The goal is to win the championship, nothing more, nothing less.”
Just as the desire to succeed is higher, the level of play has also been a different experience. “…when you play on the national level, it is much different than playing for a university team, or a club team. Because you are representing millions of people on a global stage, you must play hard and with pride every single game because you are not just playing for yourself.”
Habimana recognizes he would not have his opportunities or accomplishments without the support of those around him. This support will be even more important come August.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me along the road. As a rookie coming into Laurier, I was blessed with great veterans such as Matt [Minutillo] and Vlad [Matovic] and also a great coaching staff that helped ease my way into the school and the team. Justin has always been there for me if I needed anything on and off the court. His work ethic and attitude towards the game has naturally rubbed off on me throughout the years and that I’ll always thank him for.”
Habimana goes on to add, “my mom, brother, sister, and dad have been a great support system of mine during my five years at Laurier, showing up to every game they can. Throughout this journey, many distractions and obstacles could have knocked me off, and I owe it to my friends, family [and] coaches for keeping me focused and on track.”
With that level of focus, his accolades on the real court take center stage, but don’t discount Habimana’s achievement on the virtual court, either: “My record speaks for itself,” he boldly claims. “I am the best NBA 2K player at Laurier.”