United States of America-based Zimbabwean basketball player Saul Phiri has been crowned Zambia Basketball League’s Most Valuable Player for the year 2023.
The Most Valuable Player in basketball is like in football, the Soccer Star of the Year, which means Phiri was the star of the show in the 10-team Zambian basketball competition.
This was after the Zimbabwean point guard led Matero Magic to the 2023 Basketball League championship, their 11th title overall, and a place in the Africa Basketball League Qualifiers.
Phiri says he enjoyed playing for the Tamanga Boys who are coached by Obed Shamboko and captained by Chongo Chona and also have another USA-based player on their books in the form of Leeroy Jayden.
“They had me play point guard all the time and I was there and it put us in a good position. They took good care of me and made me feel comfortable,” said Phiri glowingly of the most successful team in Zambian basketball.
Phiri who this year also played for Zimbabwe’s JBC at the Africa Basketball League Qualifiers in Botswana and the finals in South Africa says he learnt a lot by playing for the two African teams.
“The experience of playing for two African teams has been good. I think the experience I got will help me grow both as a player and a person,” says Phiri.
He, however, sees a difference in style of play in Africa and in the USA. “The biggest difference is the pace and structure. In Africa it is up and down while in America, it’s a lot of plays being run looking at threes and open shots,” says Phiri
Now back in the USA, Phiri hopes to return to Zimbabwe to probably play in the Zimbabwe Basketball Association league and ultimately to represent Zimbabwe at international level.
“I want to help Zimbabwe qualify for the major championships like the All Africa Games and the Olympic Games. I have seen the talent that is there and together, I know we can make it,” said Phiri.
Although Zimbabwean club basketball continues to scale higher heights, the same cannot be said of the national team which is struggling to meet the demands of international competition.
Phiri played for La Salle Explorers in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from 2016 to 2020 as the team’s shooting guard before joining Zambia’s Matero Magic whom he briefly left for Zimbabwe’s JBC before returning to Zambia after the Africa Basketball League Championships.