Selepe is living out his basketball dreams

Tigers eyeing a return to the BAL

THE latter part of 2021 saw combo guard Lebesa Selepe face a crossroads as a man and basketball player. It was also a time of revelation for him.

Soweto-born Selepe, a part-time player at the time, was facing turmoil at his previous workplace in the financial sector, and his relationship with Jozi Nuggets owner and coach, Andile Hlophe had gone south.

The 31-year-old revealed that things began to unravel for him during his transition to the Cape Town Tigers. It was in that period of unravelling that the doors of opportunity would also open for Selepe. The Cape Town club were keen on his services ahead of last year’s Elite 16 tournament of the Road To BAL and fortunately for him, his trial was successful.

“Former coach Relton Booysen hit me up to find out if I was available for a workout with the team (Tigers). At the time, I was on suspension at work and about to be dismissed. So, I had time,” said Selepe at the Mandeville Sports Complex last Friday. “At the workout, team owner Rah (Raphael Edwards) liked what he saw. I also clicked with most of the players in the team.”

Lebesa Selepe
Lebesa Selepe has realised some his dreams since he turned pro. Pictures: The Big Tip Off

When questioned about the prospect of losing a regular income and his state of mind at the time, Selepe says he had experienced far worse. Also, the words once spoken by his mom during a time of adversity have always given him the perspective he needed when he was facing such predicaments.

“I’d like to take you to the worst grief I have ever felt. It was when my father passed on. My mom said something profound to me. ‘Yes, we are mourning, and it’s a dark time, but we have to keep moving. We have to make funeral arrangements, so if you want to cry, do it at the funeral parlour. Cry while getting things done,'” said the former South African international player. “So when it came to the job, mentally and emotionally, I knew it was a hard hit. I had lost my livelihood but now another chance to do what I loved had also presented itself.”

Selepe used his opportunity to immerse himself wholly in basketball. With the Tigers, he had become a professional player, and another opportunity opened up for him in media.

“I have always wanted to be involved in all aspects of basketball… to be a commentator, and to coach. There was no time for me to sit and wallow about losing my job because things were beginning to happen. I had the opportunity to play in the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which was a dream come true for me. I had to move forward and put it behind me,” said the former Vaal University of Technology student and player.


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Before becoming a full-time player with the Tigers, Selepe thought the gig with the Cape-based club would be short-term as he still had a sentimental attachment to the Nuggets. Instead, it became a journey where he would achieve some career milestones as a player.

“When I left the Nuggets, I thought it would be a temporary move. I did not think the Tigers and I would have a long-term relationship or I would play in the BAL for them. I thought they only wanted me for the Elite 16,” said the former Jeppe Boys High student. “In my mind I thought I would return to the Nuggets, but my relationship with coach Andile hit a dip. We are on talking terms now, but at that time, I did not think I could still play for him. It’s part of the reason I’m no longer at the Nuggets.”

The chapter on the Nuggets has since closed, and the Tigers and Selepe experienced their first BAL tournament this year, where they bowed out at the quarter-final stage. Despite the surreal experience of being at the continental tournament, Selepe felt when he got his minutes at the BAL, he played below expectation.

“The BAL is one of the biggest stages I have played on in my career. Each day I prepared myself, training and hitting the weight room. Even when I talked about it, I still could not believe I was going to be on the biggest stage in Africa. I played at the 2017 AfroBasket, which was my first major competition, and four years later, it’s the BAL,” said Selepe. “The emotions were a lot, which impacted how I played as I was not in my element. I was part of a new team and going to a big stage. Those things affected me.

“I also did not play much, and when I did play, I was bit frustrated. But I will say this, it was a great position to be in, and I cannot wait to be there again.”


The Tigers would exit their first BAL tournament after a quarter-final loss to eventual champions US Monastir. Selepe’s assessment of their debut season was that they took their eye off the ball early on in the games.

“Against Monastir, we repeated the mistake we made against Petro and Zamalek in the group stage. We went to sleep and got  punished and we played outside of our system.  So it’s something we have improved on (playing within the system). We have also worked on limiting our turnovers, taking bad shots, and stopping the opposition runs,” said Selepe. “I know it sounds cliché, but in basketball, you must concentrate for forty minutes. It was not the case against Monastir. It was a twelve-point game in the third quarter and fifteen point game at the end of the same quarter. In the fourth, you could see early on that we were going to lose the ball game.

“We were down by thirty, and things got ugly real quick because we played outside the system. What we learnt in recent games against the NBA Academy and Petro is that playing within the system can lead to a game being decided by a few things. A free throw, a rebound or a bucket. So it’s just those minor details.”

Lebesa Selepe
Tigers player Lebesa Selepe in action during a scrimmage against Mozambique’s Maxaquene.

The Tigers and Selepe will not have to wait long for their shot at making a return to the BAL next year. With the Elite 16 Division East Road To BAL qualifier soon to take place (22 to 27 November), the Cape club who will host the tournament in Johannesburg is raring to go.

The South African club are in Group A alongside Burundian club, Urunani, the NBA Academy and the Kenya Ports Authority. Looking at the group, the Tigers, who have loft ambitions will face stiff competition from all three teams.

“We want to finish the Elite 16 without a defeat. It is something we have spoken about, trying to finish the year undefeated. Unfortunately that did not happen. We lost to Petro and the NBA Academy and those are losses we can take,” said Selepe. “Looking at our group, we know anything can happen on this continent, and any team can beat you. That is why we must lock in so that we can send a message. A loud one! We don’t only want to qualify for the BAL. We want to win the BAL.

“That will show in how we play. We feel we are 23 points better than our opposition but we now have to show it when the lights are on.”

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1 thought on “Selepe is living out his basketball dreams”

  1. Beautiful my brother. You going to do well. I can’t wait see you out there. You deserve everything Beautiful coming your way. Your blessed. Glory to God

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