The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE may have failed in their attempt to advance to next month’s African Basketball Championships in Mali but the qualifying tournament they staged at the City Sports Centre provided local fans with plenty of entertainment.
Following the hosts’ failure in a tournament they seemed to be on course to win, there were a number of talking points.
Did their coach Addison Chiware, drop the ball with his erred substitutions and rotation?
Did the duo of Tawanda Chitsinde and Tatenda Maturure let the nation down by their failure to show up and stamp their authority on the all-important tie against Mozambique last Thursday night?
And is there still room for Simbarashe Mungomezi in the team going forward?
Well, the answer to these and many other questions appear to be a resounding yes.
However, French-based centre and captain Vitalis Chikoko’s long-awaited home-coming show seems to be taking centre stage for now.
Soon after the country’s 67-61 win over Mozambique in the tournament’s opener, one jubilant fan even pointed out, “This is Vitalis’ world and we just living it.”
The 28-year-old marked his return home with a double, scoring 12 points and collecting 15 rebounds, as the country won their very first match.
“Technically, this wasn’t my first game (for Zimbabwe) as I played in Bulawayo back in 2015. Then there was my debut when I made the team but did not play.
“However, this is by far my most memorable experience. I’m now playing a more rounded game.
“Then there is the fact that we beat both Mozambique and Zambia. There is a lot of bad blood between us (Zimbabwe and Mozambique) and I went into the tournament with a point to prove after a lot of trash talk,” he said.
Chikoko, who plies his trade with Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez in France, is originally from Mabvuku, not Glen View as many had been led to believe.
“I’m originally from Mabvuku, not Glen View.
“My father was stationed and worked at Chikurubi Maximum Prison. We stayed there until I was about six years old. We then moved to Kuwadzana, that is where my basketball career began,” said Chikoko.
Chikoko played for Mbare Bulls in the Harare Basketball Association A League before he was snapped up by a German club to begin a journey that has also seen him doing duty in Italy.