Every time Boulogne Metropolitans 92 picks up a victory in the 7DAYS EuroCup, Vitalis Chikiko knows fans of his back in Zimbabwe are celebrating with him. And the fact that he serves as inspiration gives the big man that much more drive to be great.
Chikiko has been excellent all season for Metropolitans in his first season in the EuroCup, averaging 8.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in just 19 minutes per game while shooting 57.4% from the field and 82.4% on free throws in helping his team reach the Top 16. The highlight thus far was scoring 14 points with 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks for an index rating of 20 in a Round 4 home win over Mornar Bar.
"If you want to be great you have to work hard."
"I'm just trying to make my name known out there and work as hard as I can to help my team win games," Chikoko said.
This is the 29-year-old’s second season on the European stage after playing in the FIBA Europe Cup in 2016-17 with Pau-Orthez. But performing in the EuroCup is another level.
"It means a lot for me to be playing on the big stage and l think we have a very good team able to do something and I'm pretty excited about it," he said.
Chikoko is also excited about being with the Metropolitans organization. He spent three seasons with Pau-Orthez from 2016 to 2019 before joining the Parisian club in 2019 on a three-year contract. In February 2020, Chikiko agreed to an extension that will keep him with Metropolitans until 2024.
"l signed with the team until 2024 because of the hunger the team had to get to the next level. The goals the team has are the same as mine, so l decided to extend my contract," he said. "This is my second year now with Metro and all the teammates that l have work really hard and want to do amazing things individually and for the team. So that makes me comfortable because l know we will work hard and help each other to get better every single day."
Chikoko’s goal is to be great - as he states with every social media post he adorns with the hashtag #gottawannabegreat.
"#gottawannabegreat started when l was back home. l used to work extra hard every single day, and when people asked l used to answer that if you want to be great you have to work hard," he said.
"Letting kids in Zimbabwe hope to one day do things like me gives me a little push to work even harder."
With "back home," Chikoko is referring to the southern African country of Zimbabwe. He used to play soccer, cricket and also some tennis while watching most of his friends play basketball. Eventually, Chikoko tried hoops and fell in love. He won a Zimbabwean high school title and three Harare Basketball Association crowns before moving to Germany in 2011. His arrival there was more as a favor; Chikoko's agent Peter Mubanda is married to a woman from Goettingen who knew Ulrich Frank, one of the management members at BG Goettingen.
After one season with Goettingen, Chikoko went to TBB Trier, which was coached by current German national team head coach Henrik Roedl. From there, Chikoko’s journey led him to Italy with Reggio Emilia and Verona, from where he finished the 2015-16 season with FC Bayern Munich back in Germany. And then in 2016, he started his current adventure in France by signing with Pau-Orthez.
Chikoko remained close to those back in Zimbabwe, playing whenever possible for the country’s national team, including at FIBA AfroBasket 2015. Chikoko’s performances with the Zimbabwean national team and his playing in some of Europe’s top leagues led to those back in his native land singing his praises.
"His achievements will go a long way in motivating and inspiring some of the basketball youngsters here in Zimbabwe and on the continent as a whole," said Basketball Union of Zimbabwe president Joe Mujuru.
"Being one of the best in the country is something l always wanted. And inspiring the youngest is really good and letting kids in Zimbabwe hope to one day do things like me gives me a little push to work even harder because I'm not doing this just for me," Chikoko said.
Zimbabwe’s appearance at AfroBasket 2015 was its first at the continental tournament in 34 years and Chikoko averaged 13.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.
"That gave a lot of hope to a lot of players in Zimbabwe. We have a lot of good players in Zimbabwe, but basketball is not a professional sport. So people play for fun," Chikoko said.
The Metropolitans big man traveled back home to Zimbabwe during the COVID-19 pandemic and in April he posted on social media looking for families in the capital Harare that needed assistance. He then bought them medication and food.
Today, several families allowed me into their homes to share medication & some foodstuffs. Many thanks to everyone who...
Objavljuje Vitalis Chikoko u Srijeda, 29. travnja 2020.
"l had to try to do everything l can to help out people who were affected by the pandemic. A lot of people didn’t have food or medication because of the total lockdown in Zimbabwe. So me and my wife decided to help out as many people as we could," he said.
With Chikoko’s commitment to the country’s good both on the basketball court and off, it’s not really a surprise if there are a lot of people in Zimbabwe cheering every time Boulogne Metropolitans 92 picks up a EuroCup victory.