HARARE — A trio of players who had crucial roles in Zimbabwe achieving a first-ever qualification for AfroBasket is back in action as head coach Ellery Pinkerton trimmed his home-based preliminary squad to 16 players over the weekend.
Tawanda Chitsinde, Tatenda Maturure and Everesto Pasipamire helped propel Zimbabwe on the final day of Africa Zone 6 qualifier in Bulawayo as they beat South Africa 66-64 in overtime to book their place in Africa’s elite basketball tournament, which will take place in Tunis and Nabeul, Tunisia, from August 19-30.
In that decisive qualifier game, Maturure poured in a game-high 29 points, while Chitsinde and Pasipamire had a dozen points apiece for Zimbabwe who finished the qualifier with a 3-3 record. One of the players who stands out in Pinkerton’s preliminary squad is Billy Melusi, who teamed up with Cameroon’s Joel Embiid at the 2011 Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Even though Pinkerton has some talents in the team, taking on Algeria, Cape Verde and Cote d’Ivoire in Group D at AfroBasket 2015 will require a lot more experience from Zimbabwe.
That is the reason why Pinkerton expects to count with his foreign-based players, who include not only Andrew Gonese and Stenard Mapurisa — who ply their trade in South Africa’s league — but also Hillary Hetsiya, Robert Mugabe Jr and Zimbabwe’s two high-profile players Julian Mavunga and Vitalis Chikoko.
While Chikoko is currently trying to help Pallacanestro Reggiana reach the finals of Italy’s top flight, Mavunga last played for Sigal Prishtina in Kosovo.
“They are all talented players and we are confident that they would add value to the squad that we have already,” Pinkerton told the local media before holding his latest training camp.
The national team has not played a competitive game since the regional qualifiers in March, but before they travel to Tunisia, Pinkerton is expecting to face neighbouring Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia in warm-up games.
Zimbabwe preliminary squad for AfroBasket 2015: Eric Banda, Taurai Chitsinde, Tawanda Chitsinde, Nevilke Chivhangane, Agrippa Masvisvi, Tatenda Maturure, Billy Melusi, Wulliam Muchuchuti, Moses Muyambo, Nyasha Ngore, Everesto Pasipamire, Noah Penduka, Trevor Sanyatwe, Duncan Shenje, Nyasha Zamani, Allan Zimbangu.