ZIMBABWE basketball star, Vitalis Chikoko has signed with French topflight side, Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez on a season-long contract after completing a successful six-month stint at German giants Bayern Munich.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez, who are one of the most successful clubs in French basketball history, with nine domestic championship titles, confirmed the acquisition of the 2,08m 25-year-old Zimbabwe international power forward on their official website last week.
The French Pro National Basketball League A (LNB Pro A) side, which has also enjoyed relative success in Europe believe Chikoko will play an integral part in their ambitions to clinch another national championship while also challenging for honours in the Fiba Europe Cup (formerly Euro Basketball Challenge).
“He is a player with a profile complementary of his teammates and will evolve into a very important player for us,” said the French side’s coach Eric Bartecheky. “Vitalis is a large pivot, athletic and efficient close to the circle and that will give us a new dimension.”
“It was important for us to have one more element to overcome the uncertainties that may come with playing in both the national championship and the Fiba Europe Cup this season,” he said.
Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez, who qualified for last season’s playoffs after a seventh place finish in the regular season kick start their 2016-2017 season campaign with a tricky home fixture against Cholet Basket at the 7000-seater Sports Palace on September 24.
Chikoko enjoyed a successful six-month stint at Bayern Munich last season, averaging 6,3 points and 3,3 rebounds per game in 15 matches to help the German club reach the semifinals of the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL).
Prior to the move to Germany, Chikoko spent the 2015-2016 season at Tezenis Verona in the Italian Serie A where in 24 games he recorded 8,6 points and 7,9 rebounds and 1,4 blocks per game.
Chikoko, who has also played for two other German clubs BG Göttingen and TBB Trier, began his basketball career at Dzivarasekwa Raiders and Mbare Heat in the Harare Basketball Association (HBA) before his moves to Germany and Italy.
The former Prince Edward High School student has also represented Zimbabwe on the international stage at both the junior and senior levels.
He last represented Zimbabwe at the 2015 Fiba AfroBasket Championships held in Tunisia last year where he averaged 13,4 points, 8,8 rebounds and 1,2 assists per game.
His ultimate goal, however, is to play in the NBA after previously appearing on the NBA draft list on two occasions and being invited by the Houston Rockets to play in the NBA Summer League in 2013.