With 18 sport awards to his name, Maun based basketball coach, 37-year-old Wallace Chikukutu is undoubtedly one of the most decorated player/mentor in the region. Times Sport reporter, Tumisang Kelatlhilwe caught up with the coach to chat more about his basketball journey, experiences and achievements.
Who is Wallace Chikukutu? (age and place of birth)
I was born on the 5th of July 1985 in Zimbabwe, Buhera and I came to Botswana in 2012 after graduating from University.
How did your basketball journey begin?
My journey started when I was doing Form 1 at Marist Brothers Nyanga (boarding school) where I was introduced to basketball by my brother’s friend who was in Upper 6 at the time (Vitalis Mumbure). I was motivated by what he had achieved and it landed me on the court.
Is there any basketball you looked up to, as your role model?
Stephen Curry is my role model. He has achieved so much and was underwritten, was told he was injury prone, he is small, and all he does is shoot. Then he went on to work hard and now has four championships. I consider him a perfect example of defying all odds.
What makes you a great basketball player?
My strength is in shooting the ball but it has decreased over the years because I do not play as often. I must say coaching is also my biggest strength.
Describe your major highlights and achievements in basketball as a coach?
The 2015 BISA sub zonal position 1, BISA zonal position 2, 2016 BISA under 17 (girls and boys) sub zonal position 1, BISA under 17 (girls and boys) zonal position 1, BISA under 17 (girls and boys) national final group stage award, best coach north excellence awards, 2017 BISA under 17 (girls and boys) sub zonal position 1, BISA under 17 (boys and girls) zonal position 1, BISA under 17 (boys) national final bronze medalist, BISA under 17 (girls) national final silver medalist award, best coach north excellence awards, 2017 under 18 Botswana games girls silver medalist, 2018 BISA under 19 boys zonal position 2, 2018 BISA under 19 girls top 4 position 1, 2018 BISA under 17 girls north position 2, 2018 BISA under 19 boys 4th position national finals, 2018 BISA under 19 girls bronze medalist national finals and the 2018 BISA under 17 girls group stages national finals.
What are your short and long term goals in your basketball career?
My short term goal is to get as many youth in the sport for them to break away from societal ills (drugs, alcohol). The long term goals are to have a basketball academy in Ngamiland focusing on the youth which will also help focus on their academics as well as using the sport as a way of instilling discipline on them.
As a local basketball player what challenges are you faced with?
Before the courts at Maitlamo, Tswaragano were established it was hard getting a venue to play and that is still a problem because Maun doesn’t have a public court where players can just go any time of the day to play. Traveling expenses for competitive basketball which is played mostly in the South are also a challenge.
What can you say about our basketball in Botswana generally, where do we lack and how do you think we can improve that?
Basketball in Botswana lacks in the development stage and the country loses players after High school mostly as they see no advantage in playing basketball. The other problem is having basketball played too central in urban areas kills the spirits of young players all around Botswana.
A recent improvement has been the rise of basketball academies in Francistown and Gaborone and the recently established Bana Ba Letsatsi in Maun. To advantage players a league for the North needs to be set up to capture a wider pool pf players and hence improve the overall talent.
What can be your advice to aspiring basket-ballers?
Use basketball as a stepping stone to your career. Use basketball to move away from peer pressure, alcohol and drugs and most of all Ball Till You Fall for your health and well-being.