South Africa's basketball community

The downfall of basketball development in SA

By on July 24, 2008 in News

Junior Programs

In the 90’s there was competitions for players from U14 till U22. That ensured that players could get used to competition at a young age and it would prepare them for the older age group. We have lost a lot of potentially good play3ers to sports like Rugby and Soccer solely because they have junior programs. Players don’t have to wait till they are 17 years old to play in a national tournament. Presently there is an U13 national tournament that is run annually but what happens to players after that? As a young player it is easy to stray in terms of your focus and if they have nothing to look forward to.

Most of the national players came from those programs, Milo U14 championships, Nandos U16 championships and Schweppes U18 championships. You can see in the rate of progression compared to the younger players. If we can bring back the national U14,U16 and U18 BSA championships, that will force provinces to prioritize on those because every p[province will be mandated to produce a team every year.

What happens after U18?

Even if a player plays through the hardship and makes it to the national U18 team, what will happen when he gets to U19 level? Players need to play in their respective age groups until they get to be 21 years old and only then can they be put into the senior setup. Sure you will get those special cases where a player is exceptional and gets a call-up before that age. When players leave school they are thrown into the senior setup and that’s where they struggle. If you look in SA, the team that went the Zone 6 games in Mozambique in 2004, how many of those players have broken through to the Senior National team? Only one. Other players went to varsity but they could not crack the national team. I f we had an U20, U22 national teams that would help these players to ease their way into the national set-up.

Money makes the world go round- The Myth

Most treasures in the world have been discovered in the most unconventional ways. You can find a diamond in the rough by just allowing yourself time to get your hands dirty. Personally I get very agitated when someone brings up the issue of money when they talk about developing basketball in their own township or city. Everyone knows that money is always a key factor but do we have to make it the main cause of our basketball dying. Money becomes a factor only when the people in the grass roots level start thinking they’re bigger than the game. Take Soshanguve for instance, It has a radius of ± 20km; each subsection has at least two basketball courts. In each and every section there are at least one basketball team. How much money do you need to get the kids to come on a Saturday morning? The players are already playing on the courts; they use it for gambling and soccer, so there are no transport costs or payment of facilities. The money only comes once people can see what you doing….


Most of us who are involved in basketball are responsible for letting this sport get to where it is now. We watched as the previous regime killed our sport and said nothing until there so little to save. Its not all doom and gloom, basketball is a cultural way of living, even through the mess we have managed to, for the first time in SA basketball history, compete and participate at international tournaments. Lets use the skills we have and use the current status of basketball as a small stumbling block. One of my friends made one analysis which I will never forget, he said” Try and think what you do if you trip and stumble, when you regain your balance you start running or increasing your pace” that is the mentality we need to quickly put basketball back on top and even pass the previous state.

Article by Neo Mothiba

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There Are 9 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Joe says:


    The main problem with bball, especially in Gauteng is the obsession with the premier basketball. Everyone always have something to say or do when it comes to premier bball and always argue that without premier bball you cannot develop junior bballl. My question is how does KZN continue to annually produce excellent players without a successfull premier league? How did Limpopo produce some of the best women talent without a premier league?

    The answer to the above question is simple, commitment. Both these provinces demonstrated that if you invest in junior programmes they will produce good players. To support this point, Gauteng has had the best senior leagues in the country, but has this produced good junior progremmes as compared to Limpopo and KZN?

    We need to stop obsessing with premier basketball and put more time & effort into junior programmes. Currently, GBA has identified the schools as the best vehicle for us to push junior programmes but this has not been supported with the effort and the commitment neccessary to make this successful.

    My position is and has always been GBA should be commiting 70% of its resources and efforts to junior programmes unlike the current scenario where it is the otherway round.

    Also the schools need to take basketball more seriously. The fact that PRIVATE GSBC and the Pretoria school leagues run for not more that four months is a big hindrance to basketball development. The fact that the public loxion schoools do not have any league to speak is even a more frustrating situation.

    Therefore the key to junior bball currently lies with the schools. To make this work firstly, we need to wrestle bball away from the teachers and have it managed by bballers. I say this because most of the teachers who run school bball know very little about bball, secondly their commitment is the bball as they will not participate in bball outside of school hours and with their own budget. In Ekurhuleni for instance we have invited the schools reps to a number of our games and meetings and they have been noticeable by their absence.

    Australians, I work them, have used the schools system successfully to develop sport and we could learn from them. This is also the case in most European countries and the US, where high school basketball is a players way to college bball and the NBA.

    I also agree with you that the excuse about money is nothing but that, an excuse. All that we need is good structures with people who know and are committed to basketball not the teachers who when it is time for selections they all of a sudden basketball experts.

  2. Darren says:

    Great article Neo, especially as you speak from experience.

    Joe, I fully agree with your comment about the schools, as this is by far the best place for the game to develop from. However, I disagree with what you say about the premier league, because regardless of how good a school or development programme is, people will always be aiming for the next level and if there is no next level to aim for, their motivation and potential can’t be maximised.

    As difficult as it is, we need to get the fundamentals at schools right, and also provide a platform for the best to showcase their skills after school and university. Otherwise, players will either lose interest or move on to greener pastures, robbing SA basketball of its potential.

  3. Setlogelo says:

    This is the one best article I have read since being introduced to this blogsite a few weeks ago. It is critical that we should speak up as the basketball people. The value discussions like these will add is powerful. As the writer has suggested and I observed, no one said anything when basketball was being taken into a mess. The popularity of basketball may have drastically declined as one reputable research company has concluded.

    However I strongly believe that money makes the world go around. The decline of the popularity of the sport has shown that the brand cannot be compared to charismatic brands such as Nelson Mandela. The icon, Tata Mandela called and asked Richard Branson to save the Health and Racquet club which had 32 000 members. The phone call was the beginning of Virgin Active. The following article will give you an idea

    Money makes the world go around. A group of businessmen contributed their money and sought permission from BSA to start the defunct Premier Basketball League.

    Since the beginning of the year, the SABC have had an average viewership of 680 000. These statistics are based on adult viewership but we hardly have a hundred spectators at basketball matches. This is one reason the last almost-revived season of PBL had all the teams playing in one venue. That adds up numbers. When the busy marketer go to watch one game, he or she is greeted by many other athletes on the stands.

    In conclusion, the Iron Duke left football for almost ten years and went into business. He came back to the sinking ship of Orlando Pirates where he assumed the role of a Chairman. Over time he assumed other important roles in football. He has received a number of honorary doctorates. Dr Irvin Khoza spent his money to start the quest to bring the FIFA World Cup to South Africa. He failed in 2006 but made incredible relationships with powerful people at the headquarters of FIFA, which made the decision to host their next two prime events in Africa and South America. South Africa won the bid for 2010, Brazil did not have a competition for 2014. Soccer is now worth billions due to the vision of the Iron Duke.

    Lets us think about it, Milo, Nandos, Shweppes and others contributed money into the coffers of basketball so as to market their products to the youth. Their platform was the rising popularity of the sport. Basketball was the fastest growing sport. (Cricket is now.) It took yours truly somewhat 3 years after the termination of the Schweppes sponsorship to get over that brand.

  4. Joe says:

    Money does not make the world go round it only takes the man to the moon. Right now we need junior bball to go round before it can go to the moon. The sponsors will only be interested if the ball is rolling.

    As I have argued above, Limpopo developed a good women programme without the Milos and the Shweppes through vision and commitment. We cannot expect the sponsors to be interested if we’ve got nothing to offer in terms of structured programme with numbers of participants/spectators, especially when the rugby’s and the cricket’s can offer them more value for money.

    Therefore before we can even say Milo we need to say Programme.

  5. Setlogelo says:

    Joe, you hit it right on the nail. (Soccer) Rugby and Cricket offer marketers more value for their money. Let us not go in circles, Money makes the world go around.

    We have had good programmes. The Engen under 18 was excellent. But Engen took their money to under 16 football championships.The Metro League was a good programme. But I no longer hear of it.

    Perhaps we did not have leaders who have a vision for the billions they can make basketball. You see they would have made some great networks which would benefit their businesses. Look at Irvin Khoza and his business portfolio. Most of the companies that sponsor football has some links with the man.

    How did ABSA sponsor football league if Standard Bank was so close to Irvin through their sponsorship to Pirates? The man has also close links with the people at rugby. Some powerful companies such as Macsteele and Investec are now associated with soccer. Those were the brands associated with rugby.

    Where do the athletes go to after a good show at the development structures? They can travel all over the world using the resources of the BasketballSA, SASCOC and government. Whilst a lot of contributors will use these resources a few local basketball stars will get to ply their trade in the European Leagues as professionals. What happens after the development structures? Perhaps we are not thinking the same.

    A lot of people out there follows basketball. As mentioned, SABC get adult viewership of 680 000. Why don’t those people go out watch basketball at the stadiums. If they do go out in numbers, then basketball will get the money.

    By the way, is under 18 tournament still on this year? Why have we not had the senior championships since many moons ago? Money makes the world go around.

  6. Neo says:


    You sound like you know a few things about money or you have read a few things about money.

    We need to be realistic about our aproach. We can talk about how Soccer,Cricket and Rugby are making such huge profits, but is that relevant at this stage? If you talk about soccer then UYes money does make the world go roung, if you talk about Cricket yes indeed, in south Africa. Due to lack of development and junior programs that is why basketball does not get the respect and exposure it deserves.

    Just to stray a little, Im working at a private school in Pta. Do you know how many spectators we get at matches. Parents wont come and watch a 25 year old man playing a match, maybe his two buddies. If you have u14 or u15 playing it becomes a family event and that is where you can say that we have the numbers. In order for us to get that level we have to make sure that those players have somewhere to play.

    Unfortunately the money wont just fall onto our laps, we have to initiate something at the grassroots level before big time sponsors like ABSA and STD BANK can PAY attention.

    Lack of money has been the excuse used by folks forever, instead of us making excuses we need to make things happen, that starts with us getting our behinds back to the streets and building Bsketball, THE BRAND…


  7. Setlogelo says:

    Debate is good. It gives a picure of the situation. I hope this platform is an example to our leadreship, that they do not have to do things on their own. They must be transparent and accountable. Public Opinion must not be ignored. There are some statements between the lines that will give a powerful idea.

    I had a great day today. I hope we will have another fruitful topic. Perhaps we should talk about development and money =)

  8. Baller says:

    what a friday plus its pay day for some..Setlogelo, i completely disagree with what you saying and that is what is destroying basketball..MONEY MONEY MONEY..i believe that as Joe and Neo said, we need commitment at grassroots level..that is the base for each and every sport to succeed..

    unfortunately for basketball, we need development and commitment by our administrators, players and coaches..for example, how many coaches that are coaching at private schools or paid at tertiaries are willing to go and coach a team in a township..i bet the answer might be 1% and the reason is because there is no money..that says to you, they are not committed to the game..

    what kids want is to play sport and be guided by us not how much money there me as a coach, i derive pleasure seeing kids play now and then..that gives me is the last thing on my mind coming to bball..

    surely, Joe, Neo and others like me have spent a lot more more money in bball for township kids and that is why you see them talking with passion about development..have you ever experienced a feeling when you see a kid you coached come home with an MVP, All Star or a medal from a national championship..irrespective of who was coaching them..its a feeling of satisfaction worth more than the pounds in the world..

    that is where our energy should be directed to in building a brand..DEVELOPMENT DEVELOPMENT DEVELOPMENT..


  9. kim says:

    MORE MONEY MORE PROBLEMS.Thought I should put that to this topic.Money is good but you should have something for money to come in and supplement.Development of basketball is not about SLAM DUNK and sponsors.Those things work well when you have a GOOD programme and then they come in to Showcase what you have.

    Development is getting your hands dirty.Its about going to that ‘kasi school’ that might not pay you to coach their school kids.Its about trying to get kids who cant do layup and show them PATIENTLY how you do a layup.

    You then go to another stage where,when schools have these coaches we get this schools to play against or amongst each other within a certain area or district.This doesnt necessary need administration but its more effective when you have one.

    These teams can then select a district team from the teams that played against each other and CHALLENGE another district.At this point we start looking at transportation as the main COST DRIVER.

    Development is not meant all for ‘kids’ but also the same can be done for senior teams because they need to also be developed.The same principles that I used for the kids will then be used for varsitys,ladies basketball,senior teams,wheelchair,veterans,defence force etc.

    When this is working properly then your Coke’s,MTN,SPRITE,VODACOM,ENGEN etc will want to be involved for many reasons.1)To get coverage 2) As part of their social responsibility programme.The people that are going on about MONEY are only looking at the promoting the sport when it has been DEVELOPED and moving on to the next phase.

    Money supplements a winning formula peeps.