South Africa's basketball community

BWB 2008 camp from the participants’ perspective

By on October 15, 2008 in FanZone

So the 6th edition of Basketball without Borders has come and gone, but for those that took part the memories will remain long after the dust has settled.

As always the first day of the camp is a bit chaotic with the handing out of gear to the players, coaches and referees and handling the accreditation of the various officials, medical crews, helpers and the media. But this is handled with the upmost professionalism and the strict camp rules are adhered to. You might think that the biggest attraction is the NBA coaches and players in attendance but in my view, the camp wouldn’t go ahead without the support of the African federations that send out their players for this exposure and the various other helpers from NBA and South Africa that help make it a success. Dali Dzingwa (pictured above on the far right) was the BSA representative in the absence of interim president Malesela Maleka.

This is the first year that covers this event and once again it lived up to the hype. You just have to look at the amount of media coverage the event got to see that basketball is still a major sport in this country. You had the likes of SABC slam dunk crew; Supersport, Print media while Dikembe Mutombo and various NBA players were on various radio promoting the event.

As you walked into the indoor gym at the American International School of Johannesburg (AISJ), you quickly realised the magnitude of the event with the various marketing partners associated with it. You have South African Airways (SAA) that deals with the transportation of the players, legends, participants and NBA staff. Nike provides all the participants and coaches with Nike footwear and apparel. Spalding provides the balls used at the camp. EA SPORTS also hosted a tournament for the campers, giving them a chance to meet and challenge some of the NBA players to a game of “NBA LIVE 09” on the Xbox (Charlie Bell and Caron Butler took part in the EA tournament).

Every year, the major attraction to the camp is Dikembe Mutombo who has been the face of BWB Africa but 2008 was a bit different with the local media flocking to interview Thabo Sefolosha at every occasion. Apart from his popularity with the media due to his South African roots, Thabo was also a huge hit with the campers and his ability to speak fluent French helped him reach out to a wider fan base. The Camp features extensive community outreach activities focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness, education and grassroots basketball development. The NBA continues its commitment to the global community through NBA cares activities with partners Special Olympics, Cotlands and SKY (Soweto Kliptown youth) trust. This year the NBA players and coaches took part in building 3 houses in Johannesburg in partnership with Habitat for Humanity South Africa. Apart from their involvement with outreach projects, the NBA players took some time out to enjoy the beauty that Africa has to offer with a visit to the Lion Park.

The last day seemed to be the busiest of the whole camp with the All Star games and the first BWB Africa girl’s basketball clinic being hosted by WNBA legend Jennifer Azzi. To add a bit of flavour to the event it was decided to break from tradition and have the All Star games at the outdoor courts under the African sun. So while the girls were being taught how to shoot by Jennifer and given Life skills lessons by Hoops for Hope, the boys were trying to figure out who was the king of the castle with the 2 All Star games.

I caught up with Willie Matlakala, one of the South African coaches that attended the 2008 camp and asked him about his experience. Willie coaches the Scorpions Girls team from Johannesburg and has been coaching for a while most recently the University of Limpopo so some of the drills were very familiar. What struck him the most was the emphasis on the basics from day 1, and watching the other kids from other African countries play, he quickly realised that they also focus a lot more on the basics. This camp was very helpful to him and the other coaches as they got to learn new techniques and speak to other coaches about their philosophies. As far as basics go, sometimes coaches neglect this very important part of the game and one of the lessons Willie took out of this BWB was the fact that no matter how old the player is, you need to go back to the basics regularly.

Some of you might have wondered who represented RSA and how they were selected; this year all the players were from the SA U20 team that will be taking part in the Zone 6 games in December. The other African countries are also focusing their attentions on their development programs and the basics are emphasized at a very early age. The one thing that he picked up from watching the other African kids is their mental toughness, South African players complain too much about everything.

Some of the US coaches are willing to share their knowledge with the African coaches but the contact time with them during the camp is very short. Willie suggested that BWB introduces a coach’s session everyday after the player’s clinics where they could ask and get better insight from their NBA counterparts.

According to Willie, some of the former players and coaches need to get off their bums, stop complaining and get their hands dirty by helping grow the game at grassroots level again, especially the townships. As far as the Scorpions ladies go, this was his first year coaching there and he spent it getting used to the team and assessing it. In 2009, they plan to have a strong team that will compete for honours in the new league.

Article done by Victor Shakineza with contributions from Willie Matlakala (SA under20 girls coach)

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