Zim coach rides high in Britain

HARARE - Former Zimbabwe basketball captain Creon Raftopolous is making waves in British basketball as a coach in that country’s top flight league.  

The former Arcadia Bucs kingpin is currently in charge of British Basketball League (BBL)’s high-flying Surrey Heat, which lies third in the championship standings of Britain’s first tier basketball league.

Harare-born Raftopolous, now 38, is one of six foreign coaches in the 12-team BBL, and the only African.
 
The other expats, Sterling Davis (Glasgow Rocks), Rob Petermonstro (Leicester Riders), Jeff Jones (Manchester Giants), Fab Flournoy (Newcastle Eagles), and Attiba Lyons (Sheffield Sharks), all hail from the United States.

Raftopoulos, however, is refusing to get carried away with Heat’s start to the season.

The Heat currently lie third in the BBL table, having lost just one of their opening seven games.

Raftopolous recently told BBC Surrey: “I have been asked if we are going to be title contenders but until we play everyone I won’t give an answer.

“It’s a very competitive league. Once we have played everybody that will give us an idea of where we are.”
The Zimbabwean added: “Every single game we’ve played has been a big challenge.

“The guys have showed they mean business this season.

“We haven’t matched up against Leicester or Newcastle and Durham are a quite a strong team. Manchester Giants also have a lot of talent.”

Heat have exceeded all expectations this season and before a match against Newcastle last week, his opposite number Fab Flournoy praised the job Raftopoulos has done to build a side capable of competing at the top end of the table, warning the Eagles must be at their best against them.

Flournoy said: “It’s a top-of-the-table clash because we are third and Heat are second, so there is a lot riding on Friday’s game.

“Creon has done a fantastic job of rebuilding what used to be Guildford Heat and making them competitive.
“I think it’s fair to say no one saw it coming this season — no one expected them to be as high up in the table as they are.

 “They are an underrated side and, in a way, that is one of their strengths.”

Born on October 14, 1974 in the Zimbabwean capital, Raftopolous is regarded as one of the finest players to come out of the country, turning out for a star-studded Arcadia Bucs in the late 1990s alongside equally-gifted teammates like Christopher Roberts and Ellery “Chew” Gilbert”.

He went on to represent and captain Zimbabwe at international level, teaming up with such players as Royce Takaendesa, Ronald Garura (late), Costa Dinha (current Zimbabwe rugby captain), Michael Koffi, amongst others, signifying a fine generation of Zimbabwean basketball players. - Sports Writer

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