Florsheim Ngwenya

Ngwenya confident Tigers will fly SA flag in Kalahari Conference

FLORSHEIM Ngwenya has been a busy coach. After his recent travails with the national team, he has this week to put the finishing touches to the Cape Town Tigers ahead of a momentous occasion in South African basketball.

The Tigers, last year’s BNL champions, will welcome four teams to the newly minted Kalahari Conference of the young Basketball Africa League (BAL), tipping off at the SunBet Arena in Pretoria (March 9 – 17).

After seeing South Africa, disappointingly lose out to Mozambique in the AfroBasket pre-qualifiers late last month in Maputo, the Tigers coach maintained an upbeat mood as Season 4 of the 12-team BAL is a few sleeps away.

In his usually collected demeanour during interviews, Ngwenya felt confident his team is ready for the inaugural Kalahari Conference.

“I am excited. The (AfroBasket) pre-qualifiers were a jumpstart to the basketball season. Now we are ready to roll with the BAL,” said Ngwenya, who spoke at his team’s media day on Friday at the Mandeville Sports Complex in Johannesburg. “Most of these guys were part of the team in the pre-qualifiers, so we are ready.”

Florsheim Ngwenya at Tigers practice
Florsheim Ngwenya says the AfroBasket qualifiers helped jumpstart the Tigers’ season. Pictures: The BTO

Looking back at the short trip to Mozambique, Ngwenya intimated the importance of representing the country. And regardless of the circumstances, the experienced coach says leading the national team is always an honour.

“It felt good. Anytime you represent your country, it’s a privilege. Whether you have a month or two days to prepare, the bottom line is that you are representing the country. Wearing the flag, so you got to take pride in that,” said Ngwenya. It’s been seven years since the country last competed. It was a good outing for the guys. I think it was unfortunate we did not win the whole thing, but it’s a start of good things to come.”

The focus is now on the BAL, and Ngwenya is impressed with how things are taking shape within the team. He also reminded the players that they are doing duty for the country.

“Today (Friday) is for media, but we have put in the hard yards. The players are looking sharp. It’s up to them now to fly the country’s flag higher,” said the former Egoli Magic coach. We will play strong opposition, but we are home. It should count for something.

“With the new format as well… Playing each team twice, you can afford to win one here and lose one there. You can always go back the drawing board and make adjustments for the next game.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Basketball Africa League (@thebal)

The Tigers have also made some player moves, with Billy Preston returning to the team. Cartier Diarra, who played for the Tigers in last year’s Road To BAL Elite 16, is also back. South Sudan’s Ngor Manyang has also been roped in for the Tigers’ BAL cause.

Ngwenya took a pragmatic tone on the player movement.

“The roster will always change because players get offers from elsewhere or we get better players than what we have. That is the nature of the business,” said Ngwenya. “We are getting the new guys up to speed on how we play. Luckily, we have smart players who pick up things quickly. So it bodes well for us.”

Of the local contingent, one of the additions made to the Tigers roster is centre Storm Gilchrist. The teenage centre, the son of the legendary Craig Gilchrist, debuted for the national team in Mozambique, and he has a chance to experience the BAL.

Ngwenya says Gilchrist’s inclusion to the Tigers will benefit South Africa.

“Him (Gilchrist) being here is great for the country. It’s great for basketball. It tells young players, ‘If you put in the work, you will get the reward’,” said Ngwenya. “He just needs to do what he does best. Make his mistakes and we correct them. It is part of his growth.”

Florsheim Ngwenya
Florsheim Ngwenya says South Africa’s basketball structures need to be organised for the country’s game to move forward.

Ngwenya also spoke on the growth benefits of South Africa getting to host the Kalahari Conference leg of the BAL.

“This speaks volumes about what we can do as a host country. We have hosted the rugby, football, cricket and netball World Cups,” said Ngwenya. “It says to basketball people in South Africa, ‘If we put in the work to make all our structures functional, then good things will happen.

“It’s also great for our fans. They have a chance to see us play at home. Any kid or fan can see us play here than to watch us on TV play away.”

As Ngwenya and the Tigers await Petro de Luanda, FUS Rabat, and Dynamo BBC, they will hope fans come in their numbers to witness a grand milestone in South African basketball.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verified by MonsterInsights