30 November 2006

ZIMBABWE : Basketball start life without Cameo

A NEW era dawns in the Harare Basketball Association (HBA) Men’s ‘A’ league when they begin life without five-time league and national champions Cameo.

Cameo men and women’s teams have dominated both in the league and national championships for the past five seasons. Their demise means a new champion will emerge this season.
Since the collapse of the champions, many a basketball fan has been wondering whether the basketball landscape in the country will be the same because Cameo were what Dynamos is to Zimbabwean football. They were like what Nigeria is to African football and what Brazil is to world football. The question now is who will replace the fallen giants, whose owner and coach Roderick Takawira has decided to put the club under the hammer.
However, though everyone agrees that the league will not be the same again without the evergreen Takawira barking instructions from the sidelines, the pre-season tournament played last weekend showed that there is still hope in the league. A number of clubs gave us the reason to believe that basketball has not lost its flavour and among the exciting clubs were 2003-2004 national champions Highdon Raiders.
The Ngoni Mukukula coached side, which beat Varsity Leopards to win the tournament have, for a long time lived in the shadows of Cameo, Leopards, Jewels and Kingdom Cavaliers.
The Dzivarasekwa based outfit appears to be favourites for the crown this season following their recruitment of former Cameo players Nixon Mawire, Duncan Shenje and Simukai Musiiiwa.
The trio is expected to add stability to the team that also features Erinos Katsaruware, Norest Shenje, the tall gangling Levy Mwanza and the evergreen Menard Masawi.
However, Highdon Raiders will not get the title on a silver platter as they will get a stiff challenge from Leopards, who finished third in the league last season. Leopards have also been active on the market having roped in the talented former Cameo duo of Hamilton Mudawarima and Tinashe Muchenje. The evergreen Tafadzwa Chidawa is still around in the Varsity dressing room.
Last season’s league runners up, Jewels have not been active on the transfer market but they still have the arsenal to challenge for honours.
In their tried and trusted trio of Michael Banda, Tapiwa Mugwagwa and Artwell Dzikiti, the Addison Chiware coached side have the players with the pedigree and poise to compete and come out unscathed. They also have a chance to lay their hands on the championship.
Another potential champion is Kingdom Cavaliers who have also added former Cameo players Nyasha Mushekwi and Allan Tegunde to an already talent laden squad.
Cavaliers, coached by Ronald Garura, arguably one of the best players to emerge from the country, still have the talented Simba Mugomezi in their ranks. However, their player/coach Garura might be out of action for a couple of weeks as he is nursing a swollen knee. They will be looking forward to improving on the firth position they finished on last season.
However, not much is expected from Pross, who together with the newly promoted City Wolves and ‘B’ League side Drifters do not have coaches. Pross have not been active on the market but they still have the talents of the Muganiwa brothers Tanya and Pfungwa and Brian Karemba.
The team lacks the seriousness that comes with winning the championship as they only assemble on match days. Former Cameo players Farai Tumbare and Royce Takaendesa have been linked to the side.
Mufakose Hawks have an outside chance of winning the title. Hawks, who finished on position eight last season will, as has become the norm, look up to Bradwell Mungofa and Adams Mupariwa for inspiration. On their day, the duo can be a handful and coach Linos Mushonga will be hoping they keep their good form.
Faithwear Jammers, known for starting the season on a very high note only to fizzle out as the season wears on, are likely to suffer for their over reliance on Michael Kofi and Lloyd Muyanganira.
New boys SCB Stommers are likely to pose a surprise in the league as they field some very talented players from Churchill High School. In Simba Dongonda, Nomutsa Mupezeni, Kevin Zakazaka, and Tatenda Kembo Stommers have a very youthful side with the zeal to challenge any opponent.
The players were part of the all-conquering Harare Provincial team that lifted the Sprite National Association of Secondary School Heads (NASH) basketball tournament held in Marondera recently. Also to challenge for honours are Mbare Bulls, City Wolves, Golden Spurs and UZ Spurs. Mbare Bulls have lost their coach for last season Collins Nazare who ‘quit’ basketball but they have roped in former Varsity player Nomius Vhinyu and Michael Dingiswayo from Celtics.
That having been said, fans can only hope for an exciting season.

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