"I wake up early with my new ritual of coffee and a walk outside the compound. Ebrahim (Abraham) drives by and stops on his way out of the mosque. “I heard you were in town” and “my wife wants you to come stay at our house, we have a guest house available for you and your girls”. I politely turn down the tempting offer, Nashim’s cooking is worth a trip to Zambia, but we have a very busy schedule and it is nice to have the freedom to pursue that schedule. We schedule a lunch together, Thursday and he lets me know the offer is always available. I head back to our guest house to get ready to go to prayer, when I notice the girls leaving their room, and then going back to lock their door before going to make coffee. In our room its the same thing, as we are careful to keep our door locked even though we are only 20 feet away. I don’t like the feel of this as I go to prayer. After prayer I meet the new headmaster of life plan and we organize a meeting with the staff Thursday with an address to the students. I head back to the guest house to meet with Bright, George and his wife and baby, Petronela and Alfred and Theresa and their new baby at different times during the morning.
I notice the gardener is still working when I return. My uneasiness I brought before God in prayer and have already made an internal decision to go to Ebrahim’s. Bright shows up and we go to the Catholic bakery to get some treats for the morning to go with tea, cokes and our starbucks instant. On the way there we stop at Mazabuka Block and Timber the hardware store where I did most of my business while in Mazbuka to tell Ebrahim that we are going to take him up on his offer. While at the bakery Bright introduces me to one of his players on his basketball team. I am hustled into a back office to share my whereabouts with the manager of the bakery. The whole operation has been financed by a Italian businessman. It is a nice operation. Bright’s semi-pro Mazabuka basketball team is also sponsored by the basketball loving Italian businessman. The pastries by Mazabuka standards are heavenly, I wish they had been open when we lived there.
Bright has two passions; Zambian politics and basketball. We will be talking about both through the morning as well as my take on American and International politics. I was introduced to basketball in Zambia about a month after arriving in Mazabuka. I took the girls down to the only basketball court in Mazabuka at St Edmond’s High School. It is an outside court with some nice shade trees surrounding it. While we there the local guys began to show up and as the day wore on the girls got sidelined as the games became more and more serious. I was 44 at the time, still able to play full court and not get winded. When we finished up I began to hear about their struggles as a basketball team. They were always beaten by one team: Chickenkata (spelling). The reason why was very simple, Chickenkata had an American coach. Chickenkata was the home of a Salvation Army hospital, church and boarding school. A boarding school is able to draw from the best and brightest of all of Zambia. St Edmond’s was just a school for the locals. Well, they unashamedly asked me if I would be their coach. I was thinking of life in America and the impossibility of some stranger just walking into a school and becoming a coach, so I said OK if the headmaster said it was alright. I had the term, headmaster, down at this point, since I had negotiated with the headmaster (principal) of the Irish school to use a classroom for church. We went home and about 5:30 that afternoon there are about 20 kids at the gate of our house. I go out to see what is going on, to find the basketballers letting me know that I was the new coach and when did I want to start practice.
I ended up coaching for 6 of the 7 years I was in Zambia. Bright was a senior on that first year’s team, and he would be my assistant my 5th year and I would be his assistant my 6th year. I would eventually meet the American coach for Chickenkata, Ted Carroll. Bright was the team leader and has excellent basketball instincts. That first team was made up 5 starters who could dunk. (I soon realized that they could all dunk because of the shortness of one basket) Our first match with Chickenkata proved to be an exciting game in more ways than one. They had a player named Memory that was about 6’3 and had the grace of a college player. We played them at St Edmond’s in our first shoot out with them. The shoot out would determine which team would go to the tournament. All though other schools participated it was always between these two schools. They were without their coach who was visiting America, and it was a close match, but we began to pull away the second half. When the game was out of reach, Memory stole the ball and racing down the court dunked it with two of our guys a little to close to him for comfort and as he hung on the rim for a second, the entire backboard came crashing down. This is one of those moments in Zambian life where everyone goes wild. Our team gathered around Memory to protect him from the organizing vigilantes (same thing happens when a thief is caught in the market). The last picture is of the backboard being carried down the path to the school.
Ted and his doctor wife, Bella, would become our good friends. Some seasons we did well and some his school did well. But there was always that rivalry. The reason I bring all this up in this post is because Bright had run into one of those Chickenkata players from those first games. After the aforementioned game we played a friendly and got beaten badly by a team that was out to regain its pride with a returned coach who doesn’t like to lose. So now we were going to play a rubber match in Chikenkata. We made one major change in our 1 3 1 trapping defense. We put Subwila, our highest jumping player at the point and put Bright on the wing. My thought was that I felt confident to match Bright at the wing matched up to get a rebound with a bigger player, but was sure that he would box out come out with the ball. Subwila was to release and take the fast break pass with strict orders to not dunk it and just lay it in. Well the game was a hard fought battle and our little strategy gave us just enough of an edge to win.
When Bright had talked to this player they started talking about the games they had played and the player mentioned what a shock it was for all of them to lose. They were so sure they were going to win that after losing they were in a basketball daze for weeks, he said he still thinks about it to this day.
Bright didn’t come to church right away, but he did direct his two sisters to the church, Pauline and Pamela. They were in the film "James Tembo, Detective" a film that Bright would be the cameraman. So Bright’s team plays in a Zambian league and he is doing well in life and church. Later during the week I would play a little bit with him and his guys, and Chile would get some film of their Friday practice.