03 October, 2023
26 November
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Chiimba King Jr out to pave way for Zimbabwean ballers after Elite 16 debut 


JOHANNESBURG (South Africa) - At the tender age of 22, JBC center Chiimba Tashinga King Jr is getting play time his peers can only dream of in the qualifiers for Africa's elite men's club basketball championship, the Basketball Africa League (BAL).

His inspiration to play basketball, as opposed to volleyball which is a more popular sport in his country, came from his father, Chiimba King Snr who is one of the pioneers of basketball in  Marondera, one of the richest farming towns in Zimbabwe. 

The University of Zimbabwe second-year Disaster Management student, who celebrated his birthday on Wednesday (22) on the sidelines of the East Division Elite 16 qualifiers in Johannesburg, has been a joy to watch as his side made their debut in the Road to BAL. 

His contribution to the Addison Chiware-coached side has been remarkable. Despite his side finding the going tough in South Africa, having dominated the group D qualifiers played in late October, he has put up an impressive show.  

"Playing on this stage is truly an honour. I am just happy to be here. It has been a treacherous journey for our team. We had to content with financial struggles, making many sacrifices on our way up to this moment but the trouble was worth it, "Chiimba, who revealed the team had to, at one point, fundraise through GoFundMe accounts, offered. 

The Super Six league champion with JBC admits that this is the biggest stage he has played on yet and the hunger it has awakened marries well with his ambition of using the sport to change the lives of his people back home.

"The experience and the atmosphere is different and I know for a fact when we go back home we will be a different team. Amongst players my age, I will be the tormentor," King Jr who picked up the basketball while in grade two said with a chuckle.  

"I went to volleyball-dominated primary and high schools and being a tall student, by our country's standards, the teachers made attempts to have me switch but I never bowed to the pressure. I would always be drawn back to the court as volleyball did not give me the kind of joy that basketball does. 

"Basketball has done a lot for me, as cliché as that may sound. It has been an escape from the ills of youth and it has allowed me to study and learn about life while doing what I love most," he continued. 

Having made his debut in the Zimbabwean top-tier league with JBC while in form 3, he had a short stint with Leopards Academy and for his college team before making a return to JBC in the 2023 season, reconnecting with coach Chiware whom he considers a father figure. 

His biggest push to achieve more in the sport, however, comes from the urge to do what his father King Snr couldn't as well as pave the way for young ballers like his only sister who is also a basketballer.

"My dad is a pioneer in Marondera. He was a menace and often taunts me about it which lights a fire in me to do better," the 1, 98m (6ft 6in) center says. "He is one of my biggest supporters who is always there cheering me on and correcting my game. I have always looked up to him and I want to achieve what he could but never got the chance, playing at the highest possible level and opening doors for others. This would make him more proud."

The 22-year-old has issued a come-get-me plea to clubs across the continent and beyond as he believes furthering his career outside Zimbabwean borders will be a step in the right direction as far as growing the sport back home and paving the way for more players landing professional deals goes. 

"JBC will always be home but any opportunity to showcase my talent elsewhere is highly welcome. In addition to getting paid for something I am passionate about, this would also mean making new connections and contacts and what I can achieve with that is more important," King Jr opines. 

While he feels that 22 is too late for him to be scouted for the big leagues like the NBA, his resolve to get better is unmatched.

"That I was averaging 18 points in the group qualifiers and I haven't realised such numbers in Joburg bothers me a little bit," he confesses. 

"Playing as a center here is challenging as I am undersized compared to other big men. The advantage, however, is that I am not under-skilled. I just need to work on my aggression, and on my left-hand ball handling then I can easily average 30 the next time I am on this stage," he continued adding that his focus is no longer on being the best in his country but on the continent and competing on bigger stages.