Basketball Champions League

Prinsloo’s competitive flame is lit and ready to heat up in Chile

PIETER Prinsloo spoke with a different energy upon his return to South America. The familiar clime of Chile and reuniting with his former club seem to have lit a new flame in the South African big man.

Before his move across the Atlantic, Prinsloo had a fruitful two-and-a-half-year stay at the American-backed Cape Town Tigers, leading them to two Basketball Africa League (BAL) last eight appearances.

The versatile forward also helped the Tigers capture two national club titles (2021 and 2022) and a maiden Basketball National League (BNL) trophy in July. His final act for the team was to help them qualify for the BAL with a 5-0 record during the Elite 16 held in South Africa in November.

Pieter Prinsloo in action for Cape Tigers
Pieter Prinsloo is sad to be missing out on the BAL, especially the Kalahari Conference. Pictures: The BTO and FIBA.

Sadly, the former Marist Red Foxes player will miss out on the expanded BAL, commencing with the new Kalahari Conference in South Africa. While he expressed his sadness at having to miss out on a crowning moment in South African basketball – practical reasons outweighed sentiment.

“Yeah, that is disappointing … Knowing that I will miss the group phase (Kalahari Conference) at home. When it was announced (that the BAL is expanding to South Africa), it made me realise that we had the opportunity to play at home and in front of our fans,” said 31-year-old Prinsloo.

“It’s a tough one… It hit hard. But I understand I have to do what’s best for my career and family. It was not an easy choice and it hits hard that I will not be able to experience the BAL at home.”

Prinsloo says Club Deportivo Universidad de Concepción (UDEC) had kept tabs on him for some time, and when they came knocking again, he gladly opened.

“The club (UDEC) had been in contact with me since September. Before that, in 2021 and last year, they also kept in touch with me, as they needed a player for the Champions League. But I was tied up with the BAL qualifiers,” said Prinsloo. “The coach (Cipriano Nunez) contacted me and asked about my playing situation again… I told him I had a contract until mid-November when the Elite 16 was supposed to start, but the dates changed.

“As soon as we finished the Elite 16, we reconnected. He told me he needed me for the Champions League, but he needed to clear things with management first. Last week Friday, the contract got sorted out with my agent, and on Sunday, I flew out with my family.”

 

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Also, at this stage of his career, a frequent run of games is crucial for him – it is something he felt was missing while he was with the Tigers.

Prinsloo says his new contract at UDEC allows him to compete in Chile’s domestic league and cup tournament. While he is excited about a long-term playing career in the Andean nation, another thrill for Prinsloo is returning to Basketball Champions League Americas.

“Playing on this platform (Champions League) is a tremendous honour for me. My team is in the same group as the (FIBA) Intercontinental (Cup) Champions, Sesi Franca. They beat the BAL champions, Al Ahly, in that tournament. They (Sesi Franca) are the best team in the world,” said Prinsloo. “We are in the same group (as Sesi Franca), and we travel to Brazil next week to play in the first window. I love playing on this stage. The last time I was here, I helped the team win a game and got the MVP. It was a big step in my career.

“So, when I got the opportunity to come back, I was excited. They have their cup competitions and a strong league. The contract they offered me was one I could not refuse. It’s a long-term deal, and I will be playing for eight to nine months. Those are things I was accustomed to before I came back home and I want to get back to that.”

He also believes he will thrive in Nunez’s system, which allows him to play multiple positions.

“The coach here is demanding. He is not strict, but he is intense during practice. He pushes to get the best out of you. And he allows you to play your game within his system. Coach Florsh (Ngwenya) did the same at Tigers,” said Prinsloo. “Our coach knows the value I bring. He has the idea of playing me at the three, four and five positions.

“In competitions like the Champions League, I’ll be playing against 6ft9, 6ft10 and 6ft11 guys… Guys who will play in the positions I spoke about. The coach will expect a lot from me and to affect those spots.”

Pieter Prinsloo in Champions League action
Pieter Prinsloo has reunited with UDEC and looks forward to Champions League basketball.

Prinsloo reflected on his time in South Africa. He felt the Tigers changed the landscape of the game in the country. But he also pointed out that South Africa lagged behind the top nations in basketball on the continent.

“I loved being back in SA. It’s home. The Tigers shifted the culture a little and provided an opportunity for players. Hopefully, the market is open to other organisations to do the same,” said Prinsloo. “We have the BNL, but it is not the same level as leagues in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Rwanda. In those leagues, guys depend on basketball for an income – that is not the case with the BNL. So, the Tigers are trying to help players earn a living from basketball. Hopefully, other organisations will follow.

“The presence of the NBA (in South Africa) and the Kalahari Conference coming next year – shows the game’s potential. When I look back, basketball was not my sport until I left for the States. Now, there are initiatives to try and grow the game and I was a part of that and it is something I am grateful for.”

By bringing his talent and exemplary leadership to South Africa the local game was richer. While there is no doubt that he’ll do well in Chile, the hope is that Prinsloo will return and inspire many with his skill, grit and consummate professionalism.

Prinsloo’s competitive flame is lit and ready to heat up in Chile Read More »

Switching to hoops put Prinsloo on the big stage

“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.

Second Picture
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.

Pieter Prinsloo
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.

Switching to hoops put Prinsloo on the big stage Read More »

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