Lebesa Selepe of Cape Town Tigers

Selepe looks forward to exciting new chapter in SA basketball

LEBESA Selepe, the co-captain of the Cape Town Tigers, hopes his third season at South Africa’s premier basketball club will be a charm as they prepare for elite competition at home.

At an open media practice held at the Mandeville Sports Complex, a week ahead of Season 4 of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), The Big Tip Off caught up with Selepe, who spoke about his journey with the Tigers, representing the South African men’s national team, and the Tigers’ preparation for the BAL’s Kalahari Conference.

The conference begins on Saturday at the SunBet Arena in Pretoria, and the Tigers face off against Burundi’s Dynamo Basketball Club (7 pm CAT) in the last game of the opening night.

Lebesa Selepe at the Maslow
Lebesa Selepe is excited about the BAL expanding to South Africa. Pictures: The BTO

The Tigers gave the public a glimpse of the team during an open practice. While their preparation has been minimal, something Selepe acknowledges, he feels the little they have could suffice. 

“The difference now in our preparation is that previously we had a lot more time, but I think that things are coming together naturally and we are comfortable with what we have,” says 32-year-old Selepe. “We have cut it short but a little preparation is better than no preparation at all.”

The two-time national club champions had one practice match the day after their media day, which was against Jozi Nuggets. Before that, Selepe and six of his Tigers teammates were part of the South African national team that came up short against Mozambique in a two-leg 2025 AfroBasket pre-qualifier in Maputo two weeks ago.

Despite the disappointment, Selepe says the trip to Mozambique helped build the mental toughness required in international play.

“International basketball will either make you or break you. You play in hostile conditions like Mozambique on a back-to-back in front of a jam-packed crowd,” says Selepe. “We went there and we fought, unfortunately, we fell short. We left with our heads held high because we represented our country to the best of our ability.”


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Despite narrowly missing out on qualification for the continental championship, it seems the trip to Mozambique had a positive effect on the Tigers players who were part of the national team. It also showed in the way they practised at Mandeville.

The South African Champions showed some promising flashes during their practice run, and with local players like Samkelo Cele and Nkosinathi Sibanyoni taking on more responsibility, it is clear that this team is different from what we have seen before.

In typical Tigers style, the 12-man squad has brought some surprises, including the return of Billy Preston and some fresh faces. The new additions of Ngor Manyang, Storm Gilchrist and Deshawndre Washington have been welcomed into the Tigers’ family, as Selepe describes it.

“Billy Preston, who was one of our leading scorers during his last stint with us, is back. He is an incredibly talented player and we expect him to pick up right where he left off,” says Selepe. “He’s looking as sharp as ever, but with the added benefit of experience and a higher basketball IQ due to his age. I’m happy to have him back.”

Lebesa Selepe at the playoffs
Lebesa Selepe is confident the Tigers will do well despite the short time to prepare for the BAL Kalahari Conference. Picture: FIBA

The former Jozi Nuggets player feels he has grown as a player and leader in the team.

“I am a lot more comfortable now, playing basketball at this level as compared to when I first joined the Cape Town Tigers,” says Selepe. “Although I had been playing basketball, at the time, I was still working a 9-5 too, but now my work is basketball. I know where my strengths lie and I am not trying to do too much.”

As Selepe and Tigers welcome Petro de Luanda, FUS Rabat, and Dynamo to the nation’s capital, he feels the arrival of the Kalahari Conference is just what the doctor ordered.

“It was only a matter of time before something this big happened. I am glad it’s happening while I am still able to run up and down the floor,” says Selepe. “For some people, this opportunity came when they had already retired and closed this chapter of their career.”

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