Denyssen reminisces about BAL experience

Denyssen: It was once in a lifetime experience

QUINTIN Denyssen has been a trailblazer in South African basketball. Having made his name as a player, he made the cross over to being a commentator. And just like the game gave a lot to him as a player, it recently opened a new door for him in his current career.

Denyssen, popular for his commentary in South Africa’s Basketball National League on broadcast SuperSport, got the opportunity of a lifetime. He joined American sports broadcast giant ESPN for a similar role at the recently concluded Basketball Africa League tournament.

Quintin Denyssen
Quintin Denyssen, at the back, poses with his colleagues.

The former South African national team player explained that the NBA had followed him and were impressed with his presentation skills, which earned him the trip to Kigali, Rwanda.

“The opportunity came directly from the NBA. They had obviously tracked the work I do on radio and TV,” said Denyssen. “They said there was a selection criterion, in which they observed a lot of individuals. We were assessed based on what we say, how they say it and how we pose. So based on that, I got the call.

“It was a pleasant surprise. It’s surreal to get an offer like that. I grasped it with both hands. I mean, who would not want to be a commentator for an elite showcase of basketball on the African continent?”

After absorbing the news, the 40-year-old, who has been in the broadcast business for eight years, knew he had to prove himself on the big stage.

First of all, to get the call… you have to pinch yourself. Secondly, now you have to do the work.  Everything was as I expected it to be. From operations to the technical officials and the players, everybody will probably sing from the same hymn sheet about what the tournament experience felt like,” said Denyssen.



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This being the first BAL tournament, there is sometimes nervousness that creeps in. Even for commentators. For Denyssen, there were not any as he was ready from the moment. His first rodeo, was the group stage game between tournament winners Zamalek of Egypt and Mozambique’s Ferroviario de Maputo.

Derrick Rose once used these words in an interview: ‘Proper preparation prevents poor performance’,” said Denyssen. “So all the prepping and the hard work I put in got me ready for this moment. Experience also plays a part. I have been in broadcasting for a long time, so my confidence levels were where they needed to be.

“I hope the people who tuned in appreciated the work we put in and that we delivered what was  seen on tv the right way.”

On the playing front, two teams impressed Denyssen. He enjoyed commentating on games involving Zamalek and Ferroviario. The latter team hold a special place in his heart, as he featured for the Mozambican club during his playing days. While the Egyptians captured his imagination because of their playing personnel.

Quintin Denyssen
Quintin Denyssen with a colleague at the BAL tournament. Pictures: Supplied by Quintin Denyssen.

“I think all the Zamalek games I commentated, I enjoyed. As you know, they have some nice pieces. I cannot forget the Ferro games. I mean, come on, I played there,” said the former Wits University player. “Following those two teams was a lot of fun.”

Denyssen feels he has also been a part of a history-making process.

“From an objective standpoint, all of the games were awesome,” said Denyssen. “It was a once in a lifetime experience. My voice is a part of history. I’m grateful. I got a lot of good feedback from people that were watching.

“Commentating is like refereeing. If you do a good job, nobody is going to say anything. So while unexcpected, I welcome the compliments.”

Denyssen, shared his impressions of the overall play at the tournament. In his opinion, only a few teams came ready to compete. Others were trying to figure it out at the tournament. Also, a number players that were signed by clubs, were either not compatible or did not get enough preparation time with their teams.

“My takeaway from the tournament is that you cannot buy success. Some of the players contracted had not been with their teams long enough,” said Denyssen. The teams that did the best in the tournament were the ones that played together long enough, battle-tested teams.

“They chose their players according to their system. The teams I’m talking about are Zamalek, Petro and Monastir. They were a cut above the rest. I’m sure you watched their games. They have a core that has played together for a long time, and it paid dividends in the end.”

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The unchanging character of BSA

“And from an outsider’s perspective looking in, it certainly looks like a power grab”

BASKETBALL South Africa (BSA) held their president’s meeting on Saturday, amid protests by the Friends of Basketball, who questioned the constitutionality of the gathering.

Questions are probably now being asked about the outcomes of that meeting, and what the way forward is. If anything, the basketball community is owed transparency by the BSA leadership about what they have determined to do for the remainder of the year and how to revitalise the game. One of the vices of previous and present BSA leadership is the lack of transparency about the goings on within the organisation, which directly impacts its credibility. Second Picture

This further gives credence to protest group Friends of Basketball’s sentiment that the meeting was created by the current leadership, under Sanele Mthiyane, to further entrench themselves within the organisation.

Sports caster and former South African basketball player Quintin Denyssen, believes that BSA could have been more proactive in engaging with the South African basketball community, at the height of lockdown. And so, the status quo of not being transparent, further dimmed the flickering light on an already troubled national basketball governing body.

Some of these things could have been avoided, if action was taken during the more turbulent times of lockdown. We were inactive as the basketball community. BSA and the respective associations could have done a needs analysis on basketball. We all know that BSA has been plagued by maladministration, inaction but all this could have been avoided if the letter of the law (BSA constitution) had been followed,” said the former Wits University player.

“My understanding of the constitution is reasonable. The scheduling of an AGM was what people are contesting. The constitution makes provision for representatives from functioning districts and associations to be part of an AGM or a BSA meeting. That’s what the basketball community is fighting for and questioning. The constitutionality of the meeting.”

Denyssen, who has also played basketball in Mozambique, pointed out that the problems being faced by South African basketball are nothing new and last Saturday’s meeting did nothing to quell the feeling that the current administration wants to hold on to power.

It feels like a power grab. And from an outsider’s perspective looking in, it certainly looks like a power grab. But I am a bit optimistic because at least (BSA) they have taken an action. I understand all of our frustration in the basketball community, because there is no trust between (BSA) administration and those working in the provincial associations and that has filtered down to the players and fans. This problem is inherent and has been there for the better part of 20 years. In that time the basketball community has seen limited change,” said Denyssen, who encouraged the BSA leadership to be transparent in how it conducts its affairs.

“If you try to build any sort of trust. Or try to rebuild a relationship with a community that has expressed its dissatisfaction given with what they have seen, transparency has to be the immediate focus. Because that has certainly been lacking in traditional basketball structures. And I don’t think the meeting that happened on Saturday helped matters. If anything, it has probably damaged it again.”

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BSA president Sanele Mthiyane’s leadership has come into question. Picture:Supplied

Denyssen was also critical of BSA president Mthiyane of not making his presence felt on these critical issues that are faced by South African basketball.

“You need a leadership that represents the overall view or sentiments of the community. People don’t feel that our current president has exhibited strong leadership, because of lack of visibility, and communication with the community. We have seen spurts of it. But it’s been generally too silent,” said Denyssen who complimented the action taken by Friends of  Basketball, under hashtag #FixSABasketball, imploring Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa to intervene in the crisis.

“I am certainly for it. We see it in one of our popular sports, cricket. Where the minister’s interference could have a direct effect on South Africa’s ability to compete internationally. But if it’s going to fundamentally fix a corrupt organisation, which CSA (Cricket South Africa) are being positioned as, in the media then it’s the job of the ministry to ensure that sport is being played on free and fair grounds. There should be no abuse of power and no individual should claim ownership of a sport. This applies to basketball too.”

Finally, another issue the BSA leadership faces is the assumption that they are using basketball incorrectly to advance themselves. Denyssen took a different tone on the matter, saying from his interactions with the leadership it seemed like they were interested in moving the game forward.

“The self-advancement sentiment is always going to be there. However, in my dealings with them, I do get the sense that they have the sport’s interest at heart too. I just don’t think they are going about it in the right way.

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CEO of Wheelchair Basketball South Africa Charles Saunders, far left, has been hailed for his acumen for administration. Picture: Supplied

“They have been trying to get the right people to assist with administration. I think by roping in Charles Saunders from Wheelchair Basketball South Africa, they made a good decision. I think he has a great track record in administration. Irrespective of who he works with, he is someone who knows how to run and administer the sport, to keep it in good standing with FIBA, and this helps with building credibility,” said Denyssen.

From Denyssen words, new life can be breathed into South African basketball. Whilst BSA has been found wanting in some instances, it is encouraging that some of their steps are right. The basketball community must also be credited for finding their collective voice and wanting to hold those steering the BSA ship accountable so that basketball can bounce back as a sport of choice.

The basketball community desires and deserves openness and transparency in the functioning of the BSA. By making the outcomes of the meeting on Saturday public will be an appropriate first step in rebuilding the confidence of a disaffected basketball community.

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