Basketballers take it to the court

Gugulethu's Mibu Myoli carries the ball as she makes her way around African Grassroot Hoops' Moritz Luetke.

Those who attended the coaching clinic were certainly not disappointed as a number of former and current provincial and national basketball players – including Simba Qanya and Sifiso Dlomo, both professional basketball players for Western Cape Mountaineers – took them through their paces.

The event was one in the series of clinics that the academy has hosted around the city over the years. They had already had some in Hout Bay, Gugulethu and Langa. There are still many more to come this year.

The latest event saw teams from Delft, Gugulethu, Langa, Sea Point and Hout Bay taking part. One of the organisers Vincent Ntunja – who is also captain of the Basketball National League (BNL) side the Western Cape Mountaineers – said such coaching clinics were important in many ways.

Their aims, he said, included teaching the youngsters some of the game’s finer details and conveying life skills.

“We are trying to bridge the gap between different spheres – the townships and the suburbs. The children have to be shown, from an early age that, irrespective of where you come from, you can succeed as long as you love what you are doing. No one is superior to the other. The response was positive,” he said.

To say the children got to learn from some of the finest in the game is no exaggeration.

All the volunteer coaches know basketball inside out, having played the game at top level. Ntunja is a good example. His credentials and track record speak for themselves.

Having played the game competitively for almost two decades Ntunja worked his way from humble beginnings playing on the courts of Gugulethu before moving up the ranks from the junior national sides up to the senior side.

That saw him travelling – with the national team – to places such as the USA, Russia, Mozambique, China, Korea, and Morocco, among others.

The multi-talented Ntunja is also one of the directors at a non-profit organisation African Grassroot Hoops with other two partners Giovanni Freeman (American) and Maurizio Odierna (Italian).

His contribution to the game hasn’t gone unnoticed as one of the courts at the Gugulethu Sports Complex has been named after him.

He said it was important to instill the basics, both in terms of life skill and the understanding of the sport, from an early age.

He was, however, quick to note that it was never too late to learn but, of course, the earlier the better.

“The feedback was positive and the children showed interest. That’s what we want to see. The volunteer coaches, who also play professional basketball, made a good impact too, sharing their wealth of knowledge with the youngsters. This is good for the sport,” said Ntunja.