South Africa's basketball community

Sitting in the stands thousands miles from SA

By on January 4, 2009 in FanZone

Thato Mabudusha is currently studying at Pretoria High School for Girls where she is the Head Girl for 2009. Her interest in basketball goes a long way back and her passion for the game is still as strong as ever.

While holidaying in the Midwest city of Racine, Wisconsin; where I did my primary school from 2000 to 2003, I went to watch a few high school games while visiting old friends. Racine is a small city about an hour and a half away from Chicago and is located on the shore of Lake Michigan.

I was there for 3 weeks during the december 2008 holidays and watched basketball games at different schools, both private and public, and although the private schools have larger and more aesthetically pleasing gymnasiums (or fieldhouses as they are more commonly known), all schools have one thing in common: multiple indoor courts and usually no outdoor courts. This is because basketball is a winter sport and seeing as it snows throughout winter in Racine, basketball is always played indoors. The number of courts available in the indoor gymnasium range from one to six (at the larger schools).

I was simultaneously surprised and impressed that almost every detail is covered. Firstly, the games here are very official and somewhat formal in that the referees always wear uniform, the coaches dress relatively semi-formal and the basketball kits are always neat. I was surprised though that although one would think that they would be substantially better at basketball than us, that’s not the case. They play very well, don’t get me wrong, but they certainly aren’t unbeatable. About their game, I noticed the following:

*It’s well-planned as they have all types of plays, offensively and defensively, that work well and are run smoothly. Their game is planned.

*They do a lot more passing offensively and circulate the ball more.

*Their free-throws are more often than not, on point. Superb free-throw shooting.

*Their shots outside are near perfect. The arch, the aim, the ball rotation and the follow-through are on point so they focus a lot on the form of the shot.

*Their defense is a bit slack and the big thing I saw was that they didn’t shuffle on D and they didn’t get down low and their hands weren’t up.

*They box-out… all the time. Pay attention when your coach says box out because rebounds are important.

*So many people watch their games. Parents are always there, siblings, pupils from the schools and even random people attend. It’s incredible and a bit saddening at the same time that we don’t have that here in South Africa.

The most important lesson we could learn from American basketball is developing young players at an earlier age (the average age to start in the US is approximately 8 years) so that the game at high school level isn’t stagnated by the lack of basic skills and finesse. The high school basketball in the States is refined, organised and fast and by refining basic basketball skills more, South Africa’s basketball could benefit. I have also observed that teamwork is the belief most teams centre their game around and no single person’s talent is placed over that of the team; a belief we could also benefit from.

Although there’s still a lot to be learnt from international basketball, South Africa shouldn’t be discredited for our progress and achievements given basketball’s relatively new popularity. Despite being less advanced than the best countries, South Africa still stands out for the amazing passion basketball players and coaches alike share in the phenomenal sport.

It’s been very interesting to watch the games and compare. I’m really excited for the coming year because I would really like to implement these things in our team. I just thought I should share that information with you.

Information supplied by Thato Mabudusha and edited by Victor Shakineza

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There Are 12 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Molupe says:


    I do not know you, but if Pretoria High School for Girls thinks you are worthy of being their Head Girl then you must be a great person. Congratulations on your election/appointment. Being Head Girl is a big deal. I assume that you know Coach Mandla from UJ, Coach Zanele from VUT or some of the UJ ladies, so when next you meet up with them ask them to point me out, come introduce yourself so that I can personnally congratulate you. Well done.

    Tell me more about the teamwork aspect. What things did you see that indicated to you that the value of each individual is appreciated in the team? Was it in their playing, was it in the interactions of the players, was it the way the coaches addressed the players, was it at timeouts? What was it that you saw?

    I look forward to reading your insights.

  2. kim says:

    Hey Thato
    Thanks for the info.

    I think if we as coaches get to plan for our games then we will heading in the right direction.The reason I raise this is because a number of ladies games I watched at the seniors didnt look as there was a game plan besides…………running the other team out.I feel if teams want to play GP then they should learn to play 5 on 5 and not try playing the unorganised running.Joe in his article mentioned something about Angola vs Moz was being played at 200km/h but there was structure.I think thats what lacks in our womens provincial teams that I hope we as coaches fix.

    Thanx for the info and keep balling

  3. Thato says:

    Response to Molupe’s Comment:

    Thank you for the congratulations, I appreciate it.

    In answering your question, I noticed and discovered that every player’s strongest points are utilised to the full benefit of the team. Coaches hone their players’ respective talents, whether it be in outside shooting, defense, agility or rebounding, and their individual strengths are capitalised for the team. During the game, while the coaches address their players from the sideline, you can hear them speaking to each girl in particular and telling her what she needs to work on specifically in the context of the game. All of these aspects add to the improvement of the overall performance of the team.

  4. Victor says:

    Thanks for your reply Thato,

    I think that we as coaches sometimes limit the growth of our young players by either overlooking their strengths or focusing only on the players that show rapid growth. By that I mean there are late bloomers out there that are overlooked for the sake of results and I feel that at the early stages of development, results should be secondary. So instead of focusing only on the star players, the coaches should strive to develop every individual by working on their strengths and improving their weaknesses.


  5. Molupe says:

    Thanks Thato. I am constantly searching for new angles, new ideas, old ideas used differently, old ideas that have been overlooked, etc. As I mull over your comments hopefully I will see something in there that might help me. By the way do you know the offenses run at the schools? Does Swing Offense sound familiar? Bo Ryan mentioned at all?

    V, you also make a valid comment. I have taken some heat on my view that while winning is important, the true measure of a coach is in their ability to improve the performance of each and every player in their team. Nevertheless it is a mantra I use with my players at the beginnig of each season.

    Kim, when next we meet remind me to give you my own personal breakdown of the 4 phases of each offensive possession. It is not something I read but something being developed and refined. Perhaps it will clarify the views you have.

  6. kim says:

    Will do!

  7. wandile mgwenya says:

    molupe and kim if you are a coachs what teams do you coach?
    just want to know…

    thanks for the post thato

  8. kim says:

    Wandile Mgwenya
    CUT(hahaha,interesting question).Welcome back Wandile,hope the new year brings you and your team continued success.

  9. wandile mgwenya says:

    wow you coach cape tech!!!!?????
    thanx ey and haha im sure we will have an unbeaten season..
    the only team left to beat in this whole country for our team is DHS..
    cant wait to verse them again

  10. Molupe says:


    I am helping out at UJ.

    Do things such as unbeaten seasons (no lost games in ALL games), still exist? A season without a BUT or IF? Which team has had an unbeaten season in the last 10 years and how many games did they play?

  11. wandile mgwenya says:

    lol well in our league in ma age group we going to have an unbeaten season because no team in this whole province (Gauteng) has beaten us since 2007 and our average score for the first half of this current season was 40-14 in our favour and we never lost one our season we play 18 matches per season , home and away..this is currently the 2008/2009 season.

    if you want to know more about my team look at all the King Edward VII School (KES) reports at the high school section and read about the under15A team . just for your info if you do read the reports, in the Pretoria Boys High match they called my team the under 16A team and not the 15A.

  12. wandile mgwenya says:

    oh and FYI the season starts in the fourth term and ends in the first term of the next year