Rwandan Teen's Journey To Oklahoma Leads To State Basketball Victory With Host Dad

Hoping for better opportunities, Junior Nsengiyumva arrived in Oklahoma at 14 with an interest in basketball. Under the mentorship of his host dad, who became his basketball coach, the two went on to win a state championship together.

Friday, May 3rd 2024, 9:58 am

When Junior Nsengiyumva was 14 years old, his family in Rwanda was looking for a host family in the United States to help give their son better opportunities. Junior was connected with the Strellers here in Oklahoma, who were looking forward to being empty nesters but took the meeting anyway.  

It didn’t take long for the Strellers to see that Junior was not like most 14-year-olds. They said his maturity was obvious even over video calls.  

"He started quoting the student handbook. Things like, ‘I like this on page 37, these AP classes they are offering really encourage me,’ and I’m going, ‘Who is this kid?’" Scott Streller said.

There was another detail that stuck out: Junior wanted to play high-level basketball.

Streller played and coached at Oklahoma State, and both sides felt like it was a match made in heaven.  

“I think it is the work of Christ. It points me to a creator,” Nsengiyumva said. What are the odds that a young man from Rwanda is paired up with a family in Oklahoma that has a passion for basketball, has been in basketball for a long time, is extremely sacrificial, and would do so much to help me get to where I want to get?” 

“I felt like maybe that was a sign, I had no idea if he could or not. When he got here, I realized he had never played before,” Streller said.  

So, the two got to work, building up Junior’s hand-eye coordination and strength.  

Scott even joined the staff at Oklahoma Christian School as an assistant coach, and they went on to win a state title together.  

Nsengiyumva relived the moment: "When that last whistle went off and I got to hug him, tears started flowing down my face. It was a climax of all the work we put in. To cap that off with a state championship couldn’t be more special.” 

Streller added, “It is kind of like a culmination of this incredible gift from God. Not just basketball, but the basketball was a big piece of it.”  

That championship is just a sliver of Junior’s success. He’s also a 4.0 student with big plans for the future. 

"Rwanda is a very developing country. We have come so far in 30 years. It would mean so much if I could go home and add to that and make my home the best it can possibly be," Nsengiyumva said.

No matter where he ends up, Junior will always have his second family, here on the Great Plains. 

“I see a lot of trips to Oklahoma in my future,” Nsengiyumva said. “The Strellers have put in so much for me; they will always be my family. Regardless of where I am in 30 or 40 years, I will always make sure I am in touch with them because they will always be a part of me.” 

Junior’s basketball career isn’t over yet. He has been invited to play in a Rwandan professional basketball league this summer.

His birth parents will get to watch him play basketball in person for the first time in close to five years.  


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