ROBERT MUGABE JR looks set for a call-up to the national basketball team as the Basketball Union of Zimbabwe seeks to beef up the squad ahead of their maiden appearance at the AfroBasket Championships which will be held in Tunisia from August 19-30.
By Daniel Nhakaniso
Zimbabwe qualified for the Afro-basket championships after beating South Africa 66-64 in the final of the qualifiers held at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Show grounds last month.
National coach Ellery ‘Chewy’ Pinkerton told NewsDay Sport that they have set their sights on adding Mugabe Jr, US-based Julian Mavunga and Germany-based Vitalis Chikoko who currently plays for German outfit TBB Trier.
Mugabe Jr is currently playing basketball in the United Arab Emirates where he is a student at the American University in Dubai (AUD).
“We are looking at bringing in some international players to strengthen the squad before our participation at the AfroBasket Championships,” said Pinkerton who recently made history by leading the senior national men’s side to their first ever qualification in Africa’s flagship event.
“Some of the players we are looking to add to the side we already have include Vitalis Chikoko who plays professional basketball in Germany, Julian Mavunga, who is based in the US and Robert Mugabe Jr, who is currently playing in Dubai.
“Robert Mugabe Jr is a talented youngster. Not many players of his age can do the things he does,” said Pinkerton.
“They are all talented players and we are confident that they would add value to the squad that we have already. We are hoping to start preparations next week with the locally based players,” he said.
The 21-year-old Mugabe Jr has previously played for the Zimbabwe at Under-18 level.
He once hoped to play basketball at an American college, but the Mugabe family is subject to US sanctions.
Mugabe Jr’s sporting ambitions haven’t always sat well with his 91-year-old father. Two years ago, the young man flunked his exams – and Zimbabwe’s president blamed basketball.
In an interview at the time, President Robert Mugabe said: “We have now had to get him private teachers. He enjoys this basketball thing. He likes it; he goes to the gym after that, but aahh … we were given the impression he was working hard. ‘How are you doing?’ we would ask him, and ‘Yes, the papers were not hard,’ he would say,” the father complained.
His mother, Grace, though, has been openly supportive of her son’s hoop dreams and attended the matches when he played for the Under-18 team in 2010.
Two years ago she said colleges in the US had offered her son basketball scholarships but sanctions meant he could not pursue these.
“We had to sit Robert Jr down and explain that he could not join a club playing in the US college league because of the sanctions.”