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Switching to hoops put Prinsloo on the big stage

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“But people saw my height and said I should hoop” Before Pieter Prinsloo took up basketball, his journey towards settling on the sport took a few turns. Being born into an Afrikaans family in Pretoria West, it was natural that Prinsloo leaned towards rugby and cricket. When he moved to the United States, where his […].

“But people saw my height and said I should hoop”

Before Pieter Prinsloo took up basketball, his journey towards settling on the sport took a few turns.

Being born into an Afrikaans family in Pretoria West, it was natural that Prinsloo leaned towards rugby and cricket. When he moved to the United States, where his father Daniel had emigrated, Prinsloo experimented with sports which were similar to rugby and cricket. He gravitated towards baseball and gridiron.

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Pieter Prinsloo played a big role in Concepcion’s first win in the Champions League. Pictures: FIBA

“My father took us to the United States in 2004. There was a job opportunity for him that side. Naturally, because I played cricket and rugby in South Africa, I tried baseball and American football. I didn’t really like baseball, so I stuck with football. But people saw my height and said I should hoop,” said the 29-year-old.

To Prinsloo, basketball was just a casual sport, which he played with his friends. The turning point came when Prinsloo was transitioning to his second year of high school. Both gridiron and basketball had their specific weight demands. And the requirements of basketball, in Prinsloo’s view, were more palatable.

“I started playing basketball when I was thirteen, but I never took it seriously. I was always playing outside in the driveway with my friends. In the first year of high school, the ninth grade, I played football and then basketball. The summer before my second year of high school, football coaches wanted me to put on 20 kilos. The basketball coaches wanted me to lose 20 kilos. I was a chubby kid going into high school. So at the point, I decided to go with basketball,” said the centre who was a pupil at Dover High School in the US.

Prinsloo attributes his evolution as a basketball player to two key influences: his personal and professional trainer Terrell Myers, whom he holds in high regard, and his high school coach Stephen Wilson.

“When I turned sixteen, I started taking basketball seriously. I worked out with my professional trainer and life-time mentor. Between him and my high school coach, they taught me everything I know about basketball,” said Prinsloo, who played four years of college basketball at Marist Red Foxes. “Within a year, I changed from being just a tall player on the court to being called by division one schools, coaches coming to see me play, and teams offering me scholarships. It changed quickly.”

Prinsloo, who plays professionally in Chile for Universidad de Concepción, believes he is playing his best basketball. The centre says the prophesying of Myers over his career has come to fruition.

“When I was about seventeen or eighteen, he told me, I would blow up when I turned twenty-five or twenty-six. Now that I am at this point in my career, I see how I have changed. I am playing in the Champions League, one of the toughest tournaments there is,” said Prinsloo, who had a double-double in a 78-76 win against Brazil’s São Paulo two weeks ago.

The South African’s performance of 24 points, ten rebounds helped Concepción clinch their first victory in Group B of the Basketball Champions League Americas, which includes Argentina’s Asociación Atlética Quimsa. With one win in the bag, Prinsloo is now looking to help Concepción push for a quarter-final spot.

 

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“It was a great feeling. I came in for the second bubble. I knew Concepción played against São Paulo and had a bad performance. They lost big. In my first game here, we should have beaten the Argentinean team. It was a game we gave away. We had the ball with three seconds left. From a side in-bound, they stole the ball and went for a lay-up.” said Prinsloo, whose team resume their campaign on March 27. “When we played São Paulo again, we realised it was our last lifeline. We won. Now we have to go to Brazil and win two games to make it to the quarter-finals.

“It is a great feeling to play on this stage. You are playing against the best clubs in South and Central America. These are the best of the best. For me, it was a great feeling. I even got the player of the game in a game we needed to win. It’s also a step in showing what I am capable of.”

Prinsloo’s capabilities on the continental stage for South Africa catapulted him to his current status. He credits playing in the 2017 AfroBasket co-hosted by Tunisia and Senegal as the launchpad for his overseas playing career. So, when South Africa missed out on the qualifiers for this year’s continental showpiece, it saddened him.

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Pieter Prinsloo is disappointed in the state of South African basketball. 

While he understands that long-term administration issues are plaguing the game, he hopes South Africa will return to the continental stage.

“I would love to see our national team get back. I know there have been issues with the federation. I have my personal opinions. But I have learnt when it comes to politics, I should keep my mouth shut. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot,” said Prinsloo.

But he could not hold back his concern, as he felt talented players are losing out on an opportunity to showcase their talents.

It’s sad. It bothers me. We had an opportunity to go to the World Cup qualifiers in 2017. We didn’t go. We missed out on the AfroBasket qualifiers because there’s no SA basketball. It sucks because there are talented players in SA. Afrobasket gives them that opportunity to put that on display,” said Prinsloo. “Afrobasket changed my career in a big way. I was stuck playing in smaller markets until 2017. I had a pretty good tournament and after that got an opportunity to play in Spain. Now I am playing in the Champions League in South America.

“Playing for the national team was not only a great honour but also a push for my career.”

While South African basketball has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, hopefully, Prinsloo’s performances on the big stage can highlight the possibilities.

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