By Duncan Mlanjira
Following Maravi Express’ publication of the profile honouring Malawi’s basketball extraordinaire, Zitto Phillips, more fond sentiments poured in for the legend on social media.
Kayakangu Malange said Zitto was and still is an open person: “He would tell you the blunt and candid truth. If you didn’t cut it for him, he would tell you to improve or tell you to utilize your strength rather than waste time with on weak area.
“If you made a mark that impressed him, he would say it too. His compliment on your game was what you guard jealously. It was the ultimate endorsement.
“For example, we were competing for the league with Falcons in 1999. As we came close to regulation after trading baskets, Zitto stepped closer to me and said, ‘you guys are playing like real champions’ — I have never forgotten these words coming from a champion.”
Kayakangu said he was introduced to the game in 1986 at Limbe Primary School where he first patronized the game by watching his two older brothers Lusayo and Mokera being coached by Charles Burmister, a Peace Corp famous because of his love for the motorcycle.
“So I would go home at Mpingwe Hills and get the chance to play with my brothers on a makeshift court. As years passed, I heard of All Stars game in 1989 and Zitto’s name then was a household’s.
“Legend had it that he was the best in Malawi. Then I got a chance to watch him play in the 1990/91 All Stars game.”
He later got connected with the legend through his sister Sitabene, who was then active in the basketball world and Kayakangu then got closer to Zitto as he participated in junior basketball in division two.
“He passionately patronized our games without us realizing he was searching for talent.
“I was then one of the child prodigies and as such it increased our interaction. He would talk to me on various aspects to improve.
“He was one my coaches on All Star team of 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and in 1998 he was my Under-22 national team coach for Mabatho tournament.”
Kayakangu, a Malawi basketball legend in his own right, said Zitto had mastered the fundamentals of basketball, who outwitted opponents with tenacity and finesse.
“Zitto got into positions on the court only a genius like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson would. He read the game inside the court as if he was watching from outside.
“Finally he would go on all cylinders to release carefully calibrated shots inside the point or behind the three point arc with a stroke of mastery.
Outside the court, Zitto was fun to hang around with and Kayakangu made sure he did I hang around him during post tournaments.
“We would share beers and jokes all night. He was fascinating and a very good family man who loved his daughters and attended most of his games,” summed up Kayakangu.
Others threw in other names that matched Zitto’s prowess such as Motto Nkhama, Dalitso Tepeteya, Mackson Kazombo and James Gwaza.
Sam Dalitso said: “I miss the good B/Ball days of Daud Suleman, Victor Jere, Weluzani Chingota, Fipa Nindi, Zitto Phillips, Zewere Kholowa, Watson Nhlema, Jay Chikoya, Melvin Kadewere.”
To which Tasani Banda, himself a player, replied by adding Albert jnr, Yamiko Samu, Mwaiwe Mleme, Madano Tepeteya, Hamlet Kamtengeni, Lotani Matewere and Leonard ‘Lenzo’ Malemia.