South Africa's basketball community

CUT – A journey of a thousand Men…..12 to be precise

By on October 13, 2008 in FanZone

This is no ordinary profile and this is no ordinary story of a basketball team; this is a story of a team from the Free State destined to fail but the hunger for success continues to drive it to achieve no matter what the obstacles are.

This journey started in 2007 with Panthers – CUT Manager Francis ‘funky’ Khoantle laying the foundation with management regarding participation in the Gauteng Basketball League (GBL). Having penciled in making the 2009 USSA tournament as one of their goals, the CUT team had to seek greener pastures outside their province looking for tougher competition as preparation. At the start of this project there was no league running in the Free State, and with Gauteng renowned for its strength at tertiary level there was no other way but to take the decision to trek all the way north for better basketball.Well it is clear that Francis ‘Funky’ Khoantle didn’t know what he was starting because what started as an idea blew up to be reality. It just happened to be a coincidence that Coach Kimathi Toboti (Kim) came into the picture at the same time as this team was in dire need of a coach, so maybe it was destiny…

Without thinking about the sacrifices they would have to make both on a personal and professional basis, Panthers began mapping out the best way to come to Gauteng and compete. They didn’t want to come and make up numbers; they wanted to be tested against the best and hold their own.

A normal week before a trip to the Gauteng for GBL would begin with Coach Kim travelling 150km from Kimberley to Bloemfontein to conduct a 2 hour outdoor practice on a Wednesday. Coach Kimathi is a well travelled coach who is highly regarded in the coaching circles with his involvement at National team level with the Ladies and Men. He is married and has a son who looks a good basketball prospect. His journey begins with him sneaking out of the office at around 15h00 so as to ensure he arrives on time. TIME, is the basic backbone of this team and he tries to set this example by being on time. Practice is from 18h00 to 20h00, and the sessions are always a learning occasion as the team goes through various drills that exercise their physical conditioning as well as their mental preparation for the game. This ends with Coach Kim arriving back home in Kimberley around 22h00.

During all this time the team manager is in charge of the administration trying to book transport for the weekend. With Basketball not being an elite sport, everything is all about hustling. Hustling for recognition, money for food and getting the cars on time is the usual order of the day.

Fridays are the beginning of a crazy 3 days for the sake of basketball. CUT players Tibedi, Isaac, Prince and Thomas embark on a 150km hike from Welkom to Bloemfontein while at the same time Coach Kim and their starting point guard, ‘Bokkie’, make their long trip from Kimberley. Another 2 hour session from 18h00 to 20h00 is scheduled for that Friday.

Depending on the success of the hustling, one of the cars would be available on Friday night. Usually this positive response is a welcome relief as this enables a trip past Welkom (150km) to drop of Prince so that he is able to sleep over and go to work that following morning as Sundays are out of bounds for work.

The question is what happens if the car is not available on the Friday? Well in that case, Prince would hike at around 20h30……you heard me right…he hikes. If he is lucky to get a hike within the first 30 minutes, he would arrive in Welkom at around 23h00. With Coach Kim driving down to Johannesburg that Friday, he arrives in Johannesburg at around 01h00.

Sunday is a battle with time. With the long distances travelled every other weekend for one or two games on a Sunday, you would expect this team to have missed a couple of games by now, but THIS TEAM DIDN’T FORFEIT ANY OF THEIR GBL GAMES IN 2008. With the team leaving at 05h30 regardless of time of game, this team arrives on time for every single game. With various players coming from totally different backgrounds, the trip up to JHB is characterized with jokes, interactions and some singing just to ensure the team keeps sane during the 400km trip. This is almost like team building and someone needs to keep the team laughing along the way to make it go that much faster and that responsibility falls to Thomas and former player Tebogo.

By the time Panthers arrive in Gauteng, the spirits are high and you can see the anxiousness for the games to begin. The focus changes to food after games with a number of players making fun of each other regarding their eating habits. The hardest trip is the one going back home. A win always lifts the spirits of the team but losing is something that this team doesn’t take so well.

A number of players have to be dropped back in Welkom. The trip takes longer as the resident driver Adriaan (Captain) has to maneuver a couple of tricky roads in Welkom with some of the players not being too impressed! When the car gets to Bloemfontein, it’s a move to the Coach’s car. With the Coach driving a “slow” Citi Golf 1.3 with no radio, it’s another long journey back to Kimberley that the point guard, Bokkie, chooses to ignore and he usually sleeps over.

The ‘Kimberley group’ arrives in Kimberley at around 23h00 and while the rest of the players arrive in Bloemfontein at around 2h00 the next morning. Talk about dedication to the game…

The team just needs to get the captain to take further driving lessons.

On Monday morning after a basketball weekend in Gauteng, there are a whole lot of tired bodies limbering about. Despite the fact that sometimes the result doesn’t go in their favor, the boys look forward to the next trip to the City of Gold to test themselves against the best that Gauteng has to offer.

One of the key aspects that this team discusses is education. With 50% of the players not studying, the management of this team hopes to ensure that ALL these players are enrolled at CUT next year. But judging by their good performances this year, the management will struggle to keep some of their stars as a number of teams from Gauteng have started giving offers to players like Vusi Dlamini (Co-Captain) and Isaac in preparation for next year. The management team has started hustling once more to ensure that these kids are given an opportunity to study at the institution.

What happens if the hustling doesn’t go through, well this management will not talk on that but rather puts its energy on ensuring those kids get something to cherish for the rest of their lives, an EDUCATION whether it is at CUT or somewhere else!

80% of the players come from not so well off families and the aim for all these players is to become providers for their households. With a few of their players being scouted by Gauteng teams, CUT – Panthers are not resting on their laurels and they have identified one player from KZN and one from JHB who will strengthen the team for next year, so watch out.

From this account it is evident that all members of the team sacrifice something to ensure that this team sticks together. The family feel doesn’t just stop with the camaraderie amongst the players and the staff; Panthers Coach always has loyal support with his wife Siphokazi and little son, Olunge attending all the GBL games with him.

The quest to make the 2008 playoffs came to a halt losing to the Tshwane University of Technology team but look out for them as they will come back stronger in 2009. Till then let the journey continue…

Information sourced from Kimathi Toboti and compiled by Victor Shakineza

CUT – Panthers have been a breath of fresh air to the basketball scene in Gauteng. They took the University of Pretoria to the cleaners during regular season and ruffled a few feathers in the games against the University of Johannesburg and Vaal University of Technology. They finished in a respectable 5th position out of 12 teams and the experienced they gained during the GBL season will help them achieve some of their goals in the future. I was one of the skeptics at the beginning but their displays have turned me into a believer and credit must go to their Coach Kimathi and the support team for their dedication to the game and the belief in the players.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

There Are 4 Brilliant Comments

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. willie says:

    i think that what CUT has done is good for the team. the more competitive games a team play in the building process, the faster the progress. hopefully the institution will invest in the team again next year and everyone will see the results.

  2. Tshepo Phamotse says:

    I know the strain of travelling, but I can proudly say that this team did the whole province proud!!!!!!!!!!!!! Im proud to have been a part of it and to be coached by Kim. Great man, you can look back at this season and be proud to have done what many have not been able to do for years. Funky, you brought it together man, and your relationship with the players also rubbed off on the court in a sense that they became more dedicated with each game.

    To the team, well I cant say anything more than, YOU GUYS KICK *SS!
    You should be proud of what you achieved.

    Mare la tseba thupa ya lona ekae ne?
    Come support us when we win the local league this weekend

  3. Setlogelo says:

    Talking about passion for the game.

  4. Phumlani says:

    Kim,we go back a hell of along time( Eastern huskers) Kim has been travelling for Bball as far back as I can remeber,Butterworth to Pe 400km( 4 games and travel back on the same day). Tthere are a few people on this planet that love the game as much as you and have given back to it what it has given us.

    Thank you on behalf of those who have crossed your path and those still to!

    Malcom X