The South African National team had a camp this past weekend in Durban in preparation for the All Africa Games. It was the second camp held by Basketball South Africa since the Professional Basketball League came to an end on the 24th of February. Sadly, the SA media was kept in the dark about both the camps as no press release was sent informing us about the camps. The players invited to both camps were Quintin Denyssen, Kenneth Motaung, Nyakallo Nthuping, Joseph Mazibuko, Lesego Molebatsi, Neo Mothiba, Malakia Laote, Lowell Mndaweni, Vusi Dlamini, Nhlanhla Dlamini, Thabang Kgwedi, and Thabo Letsebe.
South Africa will be using the All Africa games as preparation for the African Championships hosted in Angola in August. For most African countries the African Champs are more significant because the top two teams at the African Championships will represent Africa at the 2008 Olympics.
At the first camp that took place earlier on in May, Head Coach Flosh Ngwenya, worked on player fitness. Considering the long 3 month off-season for the professional players I think it was a good place to start. This time around, the team started working on the offenses and defenses that they will be running at the All Africa Games.
South Africa will not have it easy in Algeria in July. They have been drawn in the same group as Northern Hemisphere basketball powerhouses Egypt, Africa’s 2006 Fiba World Championship representative Senegal, All Africa Games host Algeria and the very competitive Cameroon. Quintin Denyssen says that they are looking at improving on their last performance and at least advance to the quarter finals.
In my opinion, South Africa will really struggle this time around. Unlike before the Zone 6 qualifiers hosted in Zimbabwe at the end of February where SA went undefeated, our players haven’t been playing basketball at a high level. The 3 month pro basketball league drought in South Africa means our players will be very rusty heading into July.
There has also been a lack of commitment to adequately prepare the team for Algeria. I would have expected SA to play several friendly games against Angola, and to tour Europe in preparation for such a huge tournament. I also expected SA to call up Frans Steyn, a 7-foot center, who plays for the Tulsa 66’ers in the NBA development league. Flosh Ngwenya, has a big task ahead of him and I fear that without the necessary experience around him, we will be exposed. As we speak Flosh Ngwenya doesn’t yet have an assistant coach. These are the type of issues that hold back South Africa back year in and year out from performing according to expectations.
We have made huge blunders, such as letting go of Sam Vincent, one of the best coaches we have ever had, as national team coach. Since leaving South Africa, Sam Vincent has gone on to coach the Nigerian women’s national team in the Olympics, the Nigerian men’s national team in the Fiba World Basketball Championships, he was then appointed as assistant coach of the Dallas Mavericks who had the best record in the NBA last season and most recently it was announced that he has been earmarked to be the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.
I don’t expect us to do well at the All Africa Games, but I will still fly the South African flag high in support of my country, with the hope that a miracle will happen.
By Roderick Takawira