South Africa's basketball community

BNL Finals 2013: “It was emotional”

By on December 17, 2013 in BNL

By Manyehlisa Lehohla

Tshwane Suns - BNL 2013 Champions

Tshwane Suns – BNL 2013 Champions

Standing at 1.98m, it would be hard to miss the tall figure of Tshwane Suns captain Neo Mothiba.

And given his height it’s not surprising that the forward stands tall as the flag bearer for basketball in the city. Mothiba’s love and passion for the sport goes beyond playing on the court.

The Soshanguve-born Mothiba is also involved in the administrative side of the sport.

“I wear many hats” is how Mothiba described his many roles within the basketball sphere of Tshwane and Gauteng while chatting to me yesterday at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.

Apart from his sports co-ordinator job at the St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, he occupies the positions of chairman of the Gauteng Schools League, chairman for the Pretoria Schools League and league co-ordinator, vice-chairman  of the Gauteng Basketball Association and director of coaches at the University of Pretoria.

“I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening whether it be schools or universities,” said Mothiba who has been playing basketball since 1995 while he was still at Pretoria Technical High School.

The former Tshwane University of Technology student, could have pursued a more lucrative career as a mechanical engineering after completing his studies in 2003, but his heart lay solely with a sport that has over the years left many players frustrated, because of maladministration and a lack of vision.

These negative elements within basketball, however, did not deter Mothiba as he soldiered on and his perseverance with the sport has culminated with him and his Tshwane Suns teammates being crowned champions of the newly formed

Neo Mothiba

Neo Mothiba

Basketball National League on Monday after their victory over Northern Conference rivals, Mbombela Wildcats.

“I was supposed to finish my internship and then go to Ghana for eight months, but in the same month I was also told that I was invited to join the national team for a trip to Mozambique.

“So I weighed my options and I chose basketball because I’m still going to be doing mechanical engineering.

“I will be an engineer all my life but I won’t be playing basketball,” explained Mothiba, who after being offered a scholarship, obtained a diploma in sports management from Vaal University of Technology in 2006 while also playing for the same tertiary institution.

Mothiba also credits the national team for keeping him active and giving him the chance to participate in continental competition which drove him to stick with the sport despite there being no national league in the country for a long time.

“I think with me it’s the fact that I love basketball so much, plus the other incentive was the national team being active even though nationally nothing was happening we still had to represent the country.”

“Nothing beats playing in the Afrobasket (continental competitions); you always want to put your best foot forward in that tournament. We made sure we were ready should the Afrobasket come,” said Mothiba who recalls beating Mozambique in their own backyard as his fondest memory while on national team duty in 2005.

“We were playing Mozambique in the (Afrobasket) qualifiers. By then we had never beaten them in Mozambique at any level. So when we beat them in their own turf it was a huge achievement because we also never qualified for the Afrobasket, we were always invited.

“So in 2005 we actually qualified to play in the tournament in Angola,” said Mothiba who has led the team as captain since that year.

But this year the 31-year-old was unable to lead the national team to the tournament held in the Ivory Coast due to the Achilles heel that’s always hindered South African basketball – politics!

“Obviously we were very disappointed (at not going). We always wanted to play but obviously the environment in South African basketball politics was not conducive to us going.

“We had a new interim basketball committee and to me it didn’t make sense but I guess they (the interim committee) saw it was for the best that we didn’t participate,” said Mothiba.

Despite the national team’s failure of not making it to this year’s Afrobasket tournament, the Suns capturing the Basketball National League title on Monday more than made up for that disappointment.

“It was emotional,” said Mothiba of his team’s victory. “From where we started in August when this team was assembled nobody gave us a chance. Everybody kept saying we are a bunch of mercenaries who just want to play. But everything came together in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

“It was pretty emotional and for me personally it was just a matter of proving to the rest of the country that basketball lives in Pretoria.”

After his team’s crowning glory and his individual achievement – he was named the league’s MVP and also named in the league’s 12-man All Star team – Mothiba’s mission for the year is complete. He is now looking forward to enjoying the festive season.

Pictures by Frennie Shivambu

Manyehlisa Lehohla

Manyehlisa Lehohla

About the Author:

Manyehlisa Lehohla is a sports journalist and sub-editor from Pretoria and has been in his profession since 2008. He began playing basketball in 1998 during his high school years. Lehohla also has passion for basketball and has covered extensively at high school, university and national team level. He’s interviewed the likes of NBA stars: Thabo Sefolosha, Chris Bosh and Dikembe Mutombo.

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


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

There is 1 Brilliant Comment

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. zachariamotshelanoka says:

    Bigup to bball s.a lets leave