Admin 'mix-up' denied him US scholarship

HARARE - Taipanei Charenzva, who captained the Zimbabwe basketball team at the All-Africa Games back in 1995, believes the sport will continue to sink if funding remains elusive.

Basketball is now a barely recognisable discipline in the country despite being one of the major highlights of the Sixth All-Africa Games hosted by Zimbabwe.

A centre forward of note in his heydays, gifted with incisive inside play, Charenzva made his mark turning out for Mashonaland Basketball League sides Sixers in the 1980s and later Kingdom Cavaliers in the 90s.

“It was tough on us players back then. We basically took care of ourselves. Playing basketball was just down to pride, wanting to win the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and striving to be the best,” he tells the Daily News.

“But at the end of the day it was just a trophy (you would win) with no monetary reward.

And sadly it’s still happening today. Funding is just not there. Players still play for nothing else but pride.”

Charenzva says racial confrontation was another cause of concern when he took up the sport in the 80s.

“It was still a white men’s game back then, I tell you we played during the toughest time unlike now.

It was like going into a jungle because decisions rarely went our way. We were proving each game we played, that hey, us blacks can also play this game.”

Charenzva began his ascendancy in local basketball fame in 1983 at Hartzell High School in Manicaland after he was randomly selected to be part of the school’s basketball team due to his height.

The side grew in superiority, earning their place in the Mutare Basketball League in 1984 before capping their dominance by lifting the National Schools Championship a year later.

His exploits and dedication on and off the court earned the Buhera-born forward a basketball scholarship from Harlem Globetrotters in the United States.

Sadly, Charenzva did not take up the scholarship as news of the scholarship opportunity only came to him two years later, long after the scholarship had been passed onto another local player.

“I understand the papers were received by the Basketball Union of Zimbabwe (Buz) but I was never informed about it. I only got to hear that the chairperson (then Keomon Rastoplous) said that I was not ‘reachable’ hence the scholarship had to be handed to someone else.

“In fact, I only got to hear about that opportunity when I had come to Harare in 1987 and then I was turning out for Sixers,” he says.

At the time, the missed opportunity was a cause of great pain for Charenzva, however, now looking back, he says he doesn’t have any hard feelings.

“It was God’s plan. He knew best,” he says.

His fortunes on the local stage looked promising.

Zimbabwe Basketball team selectors soon roped the then 22-year-old gangly forward into the national side for the 1987 All-Africa Games in Kenya.

Another former Hartzell High School teammate, point guard Josiah Koreva, also made the cut into the national team.

That All-Africa Games performance in Nairobi is something the now Feelmech Engineering company owner does not find joy in talking about.

“We lost all our games. Kenya beat us, Ivory Coast beat us. It was not good for the country,” says Charenzva.  

Charenzva would go on to spearheaded Zimbabwe basketball men’s team at the 1995 All-Africa Games in Harare.

The team, boasting the likes of Ronald Garura, Ernie Noble and Hugh Hofisi, held their own but still could not match the prowess of Angola, losing to the regional giants by 12 points.

He would however, end his career on a high note at Kingdom Cavaliers, finally clinching the national basketball championship in 1997.

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