Andile Hlophe

Corporate jobs set Hlophe for basketball business

Hlophe hopes to grow the Bethusile brand on the continent

ANDILE Hlophe is a well-known figure in South African basketball and one of the few wholly invested in the game. What is not widely known is how he, over decade ago, took a leap of faith and invested in the game he loves.

In 2011, the Jozi Nuggets owner and coach traded in the security of a 9-5 job in the financial sector and put all his eggs in basketball. That year, Hlophe started the Bethusile Foundation, a company which provides basketball equipment, and refurbishes and builds new courts.

Andile Hlophe
Andile Hlophe provides basketball equipment through Bethusile. Pictures: The BTO

Since making that decision, Hlophe has had no ounce of regret.

“I believe when you follow your passion, you will be happy for the rest of your life. For me, basketball is my passion, It saved me from a lot of things. If I make money from basketball, then of course, I’ll be happy,” explained Hlophe on Wednesday at St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, where he oversaw the installation of new hoops.

“I worked as a planner for various banking institutions. There was money, but it was not fulfilling because it was commission-based. But I think it trained me to be in the business space,” said the St Benedict’s College coach. “The sports business has a lot of money. Not many people in South Africa recognise that sports have growth potential. It is potential I saw and tapped into. I can say I have had success.”

Initially, he used to advise people where to go or who to get in touch with to find anything related to basketball equipment. While doing so, the bright idea hit, and Hlophe realised he could provide the same service to potential clients.

“People used to contact me to inquire where they could get things like kits or hoops and I would recommend. Eventually, I said, ‘you know what, let me do this myself’. That is when Bethusile came to life,” said the former coach of BNL franchise Mpumalanga Rhinos.

Hlophe, whose business has expanded to other territories, exclaimed that it was deeply satisfying for his business services to be supporting the basketball ecosystem. His business’ niche area of revitalising courts and manufacturing kits is contributing to a real need within the ecosystem. 

“If there was no basketball then my business would not work. Because basketball is taking place, we can grow. We have even provided services outside of South Africa. We provided countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho with basketball equipment,” said Hlophe.

Hlophe’s involvement in the game also extends to coaching where his focus has been on providing a pipeline of talent to South African basketball.

“If kids get an opportunity to play the game and learn its fundamentals, in the long run, the national team will benefit. As a school’s team coach, I try to give as much knowledge to the younger generation so that they can play the game the right way,” said Hlophe.

Andile Hlophe
Andile Hlophe believes giving knowledge to young players can help South African national teams.

While he strives to empower young players on the court, Hlophe, who holds a FIBA WABC level 1 certificate, stressed the need to improve himself as a coach.

“It’s important to empower yourself. I cannot remain at the same level as I was five years ago because the game evolves daily. If I have a chance to improve myself, then I must take that opportunity. That is my motto in life,” said Hlophe.

Finally, Hlpohe desires to contribute to growing the number of coaches in basketball in South Africa. He also wants his business to be a first point of reference internationally.

“Business-wise, I hope to be the go-to in sports equipment in Africa. Coaching-wise, I hope to develop twenty-five coaches. When I watch a game, I learn something new. So, when aspiring coaches watch games that I am coaching in and gain something then I am doing something right,” said Hlophe.

Hlophe’s investment in basketball at all levels is a sign that there is a space for growth in the game in South Africa. It also shows the game has bountiful opportunities for potential investors. 

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Hlope: Basketball will be seen with a different eye

HOSTING a sports tournament is not an easy task. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that every detail is perfect. For Andile Hlophe and his Jozi Nuggets team, the successful hosting of the FIBA Basketball Africa League (BAL) qualifying tournament held in Johannesburg was like summiting Mount Everest.

Hlophe, who is the founder, owner and coach of the Nuggets, was thrown a hospital pass when he was informed at short-notice by Basketball South Africa (BSA), that hosting the BAL qualifying phase for Southern African teams fell squarely on his team. This kind of news would have sunken the faint of heart, but being involved in basketball as long as he has and knowing what is at stake, Hlophe and the Nuggets bit the bullet.

For their Group E qualifying phase of the tournament, the Nuggets welcomed five of Southern Africa’s best teams, Ferroviario de Maputo (Mozambique), UNZA Pacers (Zambia), Mercenaries (Zimbabwe), Lions (Namibia) and Dolphins (Botswana) at the Wembley Stadium.

“Yoh! Hosting has been painful. Very painful in the sense that we were told that we are hosting on the 15th of October for an event that starts on the 22nd of October. The federation (BSA) accepted the bid on our behalf, but they did not tell us who would handle the tournament costs. We got the shock of our lives when we were told on the 20th of October that we were supposed to pay for everything,” said an exhausted Hlophe at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening. He elaborated on what the Nuggets’ financial responsibilities were for the tournament. “We were supposed to pay for the accommodation of the officials, we were supposed pay for medical services, the security and table officials. Yeah! It was a mess.”

Having to wear the hats, he wore during the tournament, Hlophe should have passed out, but instead he took the situation in his stride.

“Our team is amateur. We don’t have any corporate backing. Everything comes from my pocket and the players. It’s been tough, but the last game has been played, no lights went off and no referees went on strike,” said Hlophe.

Asked why the information was not given out timeously, Hlophe attributed that turn of events to the slack attitude of South Africa’s basketball governing body.

“It was carelessness. When you are bidding to host a tournament. You need to have your ducks in a row. You need to be told that ‘this is what is expected of you’,” said Hlophe. “Everybody said it is cheaper to travel than to host, which is true. Let’s say if the games were in Maputo, we would have spent maybe R 60 000 to go there and comeback. Now we had to spend more than R 200 000 to host.”

While hosting the FIBA tournament put a financial strain on his club’s coffers, Hlophe who hails from Kanyamazne in Mpumlanga, believes the sacrifice is worth it for the Jozi Nuggets brand. The qualifiers will also raise the profile of basketball in South Africa, a sport that has struggled for decades to gain a foothold.

Skumbuzo Mthembu (7) and Thamsanqa Nyawo (4) are some of the young players on the Nuggets roster who got playing time during the BAL qualifying tournament.

“Basketball will be seen in a different eye in South Africa and we will be looked at as a club that competed in continental competition. Not many clubs can say they have competed in continental competition in South Africa,” said Hlophe, who believes his team’s new found profile could attract new partnerships. “A potential partner would be the Gauteng Lions (rugby franchise). It would not be a surprise for them to own basketball club. They own the Ellis Park Arena, so if we team up with Gauteng Lions, we will have access to the venue for basketball.

On the court, while the results were not pleasing for the Nuggets, who suffered four losses and gained a victory over Dolphins to finish fifth in Group E, which was eventually won by Ferroviario. The Mozambican team and UNZA will proceed to the next phase of qualification. Despite the disappointing results, Hlophe is of the opinion that the young players his team recruited for the tournament will benefit in the future.

“I think the youngsters we brought in learnt a lot and this opportunity gave them a chance to showcase their skills. When was the last time you heard of an under-20 player in South Africa competing in an international competition? The last time was 2016. Some of these kids are 20 years old, so we gave them an opportunity to be seen, so that their status can rise in the world of basketball,” concluded Hlophe.

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