ZIM - Maseko’s college experience needed back home
HARARE (NCAA Women/African Championship for Women) - Seton Hall University's Alexandra Maseko may have finished her four-year college career with a disappointing 51-45 defeat to St John’s in the Big East Championship on Saturday, but her experience will be much needed as her native country of Zimbabwe faces a historic challenge later this year.
Zimbabwe has qualified to the 2013 Afrobasket for the first time since 1994, and she is rated as one of the most prominent players in the country.
Under legendary head coach Anne Donovan, the 1.90m forward brought her college career to a close with six points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes as Seton Hall finished with an 11-20 record for the season.
Now, Zimbabwe needs the 23-year-old's services.
Maseko averaged 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds during the 2009 Africa zone 6 qualifier tournament, but Zimbabwe lost both games to South Africa.
Last month, Zimbabwe achieved a double win (94-34 and 67-30) over Botswana in the 2013 Afrobasket qualifier held in Mozambique's capital of Maputo, to secure a remarkable return to Africa’s flagship women's tournament.
Zimbabwe women’s team has an average age of 24 and is coached by Skhumbuzo Ndlovu.
By the time this year’s Afrobasket tips off in September, Zimbabwe will end a 19-year Afrobasket drought, seen in the country as a rewarding moment, especially as this team has been playing together since the youth categories.
Maseko captained Zimbabwe U20 team during the 2007 All-Africa Games as well as Zimbabwe national youth Games and the Africa zone 6 Youth Games.
Zimbabwe began their basketball revamp in 2007 with the U16 and U18 showing at African tournaments in 2007.
The challenge is now to find how competitive Zimbabwe can become.
Addison Chiware, Chairman of Basketball Union Zimbabwe (BUZ) says they expect to be a quality competitor in six months time.
"We expect to stand up and be counted. We expect to win at least 2 games in the round robin stage," Chiware told FIBA.com.
"Zimbabwe is not a tall team in Africa but what we lack for in height we compensate with a big heart for the game and a never-say-die attitude. We have an immense fighting spirit," he explained.
Future of Zimbabwe’s youth teams
When asked about the long absence from the Afrobasket, Chiware said it happened because they did not have a critical mass of players to take them to the next level.
"As long as we continue to have a strong national team programme, we will continue to grow into a formidable force," he explained.
"We also come from a strong zone and as long as the zone continues to prosper we will prosper. Afrobasket champions are from our zone."
For Chiware, Zimbabwe's youth basketball programmes are to become one of their priorities, just like this generation of players who will show in Maputo later this year.
"Our plan is to continue churning out coaches who look after our youth basketball players, especially through our schools programmes because that is where the future lies and it is critical that our basketball programme is strengthened in this area," he said.
"We are also emphasising our referees' development programme in order to have more international referees that will ensure basketball is played as per FIBA standards throughout our leagues."
For Zimbabwe to succeed internationally, Maseko’s college experience is highly needed.