ZIMBABWE’s preparations for next month’s AfroBasket qualifiers has suffered a setback following the withdrawal of foreign-based forward Charity Chigumba from camp. Chigumba becomes the second foreign-based professional to excuse herself, after Margret Magwaro failed to answer her country’s call owing to school commitments.
“We are going to Mozambique with roughly three foreign-based players in Dorcas Marondera, Mary Chawaitira, who are both based in Zambia, and Thabile Ngandimi who plies her trade in South Africa,” said coach Erinous Katsaruware.
The three were expected in Zimbabwe last Friday before the team traveled to Bulawayo for a three-day camp.
“We would have loved to have both Chigumba (Charity) and Margret Magwaro, who are two of our most experienced players, but both have indicated that they will not be able to pitch up,” he said.
Magwaro is in the United Kingdom were she recently started her studies, and excused herself from contention at the beginning for the team’s preparations.
Chigumba just started a new job in Zambia and could not be released for national duty.
Eight teams are expected to slug it out in Maputo for the sole ticket to the AfroBasket Championships scheduled for Mali in September.
The sides in these qualifiers are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Angola, by virtue of reaching last year’s final, have already qualified and will use the tournament as part of their preparations for the Mali finals.
This leaves Zimbabwe’s hopes of qualifying largely dependent on how the team handles the threats posed by Mozambique and South Africa.
Together with Zimbabwe and Angola, these are some of the top basketball teams in Southern Africa; while Zambia has fallen off the radar in recent times.
“We intend to give every team the respect they deserve, but we have identified South Africa and Mozambique as the biggest threats to our qualification,” said Katsaruware. “Angola are powerhouses of African basketball, but they are already guaranteed a spot in the finals.
“This only leaves South Africa and Mozambique as the only viable threats to our qualification. Both teams have predominately tall powerful players and we have adjusted our tactics to combat their height advantage.
“We have been working on our fitness, during our camp sessions, and hope to employ more of a running game against them.”
The Zimbabwe squad played a couple of friendlies against select sides in Bulawayo over the past three days, and returns to Harare tomorrow for the final camp.
Katsaruware’s team departs for Mozambique on March 1.
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