ZIMBABWE’S Under-16 boys and girls teams put up a remarkable show in Botswana to qualify for the Afro-basket tournament finals to be held in July.
The boys’ competition will be held in Mali and the dates are yet to be confirmed while the girls will travel to Madagascar for the finals from July 16 to 24.
The two teams were in Botswana last week for the qualifiers that featured Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia.
The girls came first in their section after winning all their matches against Angola, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia.
The boys side were second in their category.
Basketball Union of Zimbabwe president, Addison Chiware, said this is the first time for the girls to directly qualify for the event.
“For the Under-16 girls we have come second before but direct qualification like what they have done, we haven’t done it before, and this is amazing.
“Beating Angola at the Under-16 level it’s something that is very big. “This is the catalyst we need to realise that in the next four editions we are guaranteed of playing at the highest level.
“We are saying if we have the junior national teams from the Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 it’s easy for us to have strong senior teams because that experience comes to play,” said Chiware.
The men’s team qualified for the seniors Afro-basket championships scheduled for August in Tunisia and Chiware said their junior policy was paying dividends.
“The qualification of the men’s team was a result of that (junior programme). That experience comes to play because most of the players in the national team were in the junior teams.
“We used to qualify before by hosting but since we started the Under-16 and Under-18 teams around 2008, we have qualified for the continental competition, which is the best in Africa.
“So now we need to intensify and add positive adjustments to the programme. We now need medals at the continental level,” said Chiware. The BUZ president said they were hoping to start preparations for the events soon after some of the players finish their exams.