Hoops! with MWEMBE KAONA
THIS weekend Copperbelt basketball will take a break from league action to honour one of the games greats of his era in Augustine Simonda.The memorial tournament will be held at the Copperbelt University courts with teams travelling from as far as Lusaka.
The idea was mooted by Andrew Nyirenda currently serving as Copperbelt Basketball Association chairperson who played alongside Simonda from the late 90â€™s featuring for Premium Baskets and later a side that was briefly sponsored by Cadbury Schweppes – Crush Kings.
I knew Augustine from his initial league years when he played for Premium Hawks, a side he featured for not only with distinction but controversy too.
His distinctive performances were like his teammates – Peter â€˜Magicâ€™ Phiriâ€™s attitude of never say die but controversy arose whenever he felt some injustice was served by match officials but generally, he was a hard worker.
Auga – as his teammates fondly called him, – played his best basketball for Hawks and won several honours with the team such as the 1992 East and Southern Africa Sports Indoor Federation (ESASIFE) regional title and the locally coveted ROP Cup plus UNZA invitation tournament.
Travelling with the team to countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania, he never failed to impress team selectors each week of training.
Unfortunately, though called to the national team trials by then coach Boniface Kambikambi in 1995 when All-Africa Games hosts Zimbabwe travelled to Lusaka for a series of preparatory friendlies, he did not make the final list and was disappointed but not dejected.
He loved the game and was serious about it in approach such that he put in more than average when it came to training.
Auga also had respect for his mentors such as Brian Chisengalumbwe who was once his coach at Hawks and he was also very patriotic to the team.
Any member of his team received his protection while non-team members were at risk straying close by to cause commotion.
He was close to senior members of the team, especially Juba Banda, Fred â€˜Slimâ€™ Kansuma and Ernest â€˜Jeshiâ€™ Muwamba any of who would be his roommate whenever Hawks were on the road.
A feature of his playing style was effective defence characterised by mesmerising blocked shots and hard to beat defensive stance.
One memorable game was when teammate Felix â€˜Crankshaftâ€™ Mukungwa crossed over to hot rivals Bank of Zambia Heroes and in a short while the two sides met in a league thriller on court.
It was widely anticipated that with Mukungwa out of the Nest Hawks they would suffer damage at his hands and Heroes would carry the day.
Thanks to Simonda, who asked his coach to allow him to mark the sharp shooting Mukungwa and as granted by his coach, Auga put his opponent out of the game by blocking 90 percent of the shots taken.
Still at the peak of his playing career, Simonda moved to Kitwe towards the end of the millennium where he went and strengthened baskets as player coach, teaming up with notables such as Fabry Basili, Connell Kandala and Nyirenda.
He passed on too young, but the Augustine Simonda Memorial tournament this weekend is a befitting honour to him.
Have a blessed week!
Hoops! with MWEMBE KAONA