Zouita rises to occasion, Moroccans have first major African title in decades
RADES (FIBA Africa Champions Cup 2017) - For years, Abdelhakim Zouita has been described as one of Africa's top performers, and on Wednesday he confirmed it.
The 6ft7in (2.00m) small forward not only sparked Association Sportive de Sale to become the first Morocco team to win the FIBA Africa Champions Cup (ACC) - since Maghreb Association Sportive de Fez did it in 1998 - but he also became the first Moroccan named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Abdelhakim Zouita was named the FIBA Africa Champions Cup 2017 MVP
He may have contributed only eight points off the bench in Wednesday's Championship Game against hosts Etoile Sportive Rades and has limped off the court after twisting his left knee with five minutes remaining, but his impact throughout the 12-team event proved to be crucial.
In the Semi-Final against former ACC champions Libolo of Angola, for instance, Zouita made 11 of his 14 field goal attempts, converted 7 of his 10 free-throw attempts, finishing with a game-high 29 points.
The 31-year-old averaged 15.9 points, 3.9 assists in seven of Association Sportive Rade's eight games, and has joined a list of former ACC MVP, which includes Wayne Arnold (2016), Emmanuel Quezada (2015), Eduardo Mingas (2014), Cedric Isom (2013), Carlos Morais (2012) and Makram Ben Romdhane (2011) just to mention the most recent winners.
Association Sportive Sale had previously claimed three Third-Place finishes at FIBA ACC
Zouita's MVP honours as well as AS Sale's continental success indicate Morocco's basketball continuing progress over the last few years.