SA, Angola lay path to Mavomo’s ah-ha moment

WHEN Emmanuel Mavomo left his country of birth, the Democratic Republic of Congo for South Africa, one of the passions he carried with him was his love for basketball. He did not know where the game would lead him, and after jumping through some of life’s hoops, he then arrived at his ah-ha moment.

Initially a football fan, the feats of the superstar-laden US Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics made him a convert. “It was when Michael Jordan and the Dream Team played at the Olympics. It looked nice and was played at a fast pace. I believed I could do this,” Kinshasa-born Mavomo told The Big Tip Off. “Like every kid in Africa, I played football first. But I decided I like this sport (basketball) and I was going to start playing it.”

As he played the game, life would take a twist. Political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saw Mavomo shaken out of his comfort zone and forced him to trek south to start a fresh new life in South Africa.
In South Africa, the themes of sacrifice, reality checks and a career detour were the order day for Mavomo, but what did not dissipate was his love for basketball.

Mavomo’s initiation in South Africa
Cape Town was the first setting of Mavomo’s new life. In the Mother City, he pursued his studies at Cape Technikon, now Cape Peninsula University of Technology, where he encountered a catch-22 situation. Mavomo was working to fund his studies and playing for the institution’s team. He battled to balance all three, so, something had to give.

Thierry Kita, his team coach in those days, dropped a pearl of wisdom that informed Mavomo’s next move. “Unfortunately, I could not combine studies, work and basketball. I had to work to pay for my studies. My coach back then, Thierry Kita, told me I had to choose. ‘You are working to pay for your studies… That is the priority. So you have cut the less important thing,” said Mavomo. “… it was basketball. I did not go far as a player, but I still loved the sport. I did know I would be come a coach one day.”

Emmnauel Mavomo second picture.
Emmanuel Mavomo, picked some of life’s hard lessons while living in South Africa. Pictures: Supplied

After completing his studies, he worked for a while in Cape Town, but eventually, Mavomo headed north to Johannesburg to seek new opportunities.

It was also in the City of Gold that he realised he had a knack for coaching. Being in Johannesburg also reignited Mavomo’s involvement in the game.

“I continued my studies and worked in the food and beverage industry in Cape Town. I then moved to Joburg to seek better pastures. That is where I met Cabby Magongwa (owner) of Darkchild Productions,” said Mavomo.

“He had the contract for the branding and marketing of BWB (Basketball Without Borders). He showed me the ropes in the marketing space and later put me in charge of that portfolio,” said Mavomo. “So, seeing the NBA guys come to South Africa reignited the flame. I realised this is the world I belong in.”

When he parted ways with Darkchild, Mavomo struggled to make ends meet, and at the same time, his ah-ha moment arrived.
“I had to find something to keep me going. A friend asked me, when we coincidentally walked by some basketball courts, ‘Hey, you love basketball. How about we organise events, and you coach the kids?” said Mavomo. “We got started with some weekend events. That is when I decided to make this (coaching) my passion. I also started coaching at schools, and I took some FIBA other online courses. And the rest is history.”

 

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Mavomo get’s his break in Angola

While South Africa was his initiation school, Mavomo’s relocating to Angola was the pathway to him realising his coaching dream. When his then-wife got a job in the Southern African country, it was, as Mavomo says, “a blessing in disguise”. Armed with new knowledge, he knocked on the doors of two of the country’s big clubs and one opened after three months.

“I had taken basketball courses online through a school called Sports Management World Wide. Through that school, I learned video editing, analytics and analysis. Also, my wife, at the time, had to go to Angola. She told me, ‘Look, my work is taking me to Angola. Are you coming with me or staying behind?” said Mavomo.

“Of course, I told her she could not go there alone. For me, Angola was a blessing in disguise because it is one of the best basketball countries in Africa.
“In 2015, I went to Petro de Luanda and introduced myself and what I had to offer. During that time in Africa, not many teams cared about scouting or video analysis. I was more shocked at Angola they also lacked those expertise.”

The season Mavomo joined Petro, the Angolan giants achieved instant success, winning the FIBA Africa Clubs Champion Cup (now the BAL), Angolan League and Super Cup. While his pioneering efforts brought success to Petro, Mavomo felt it was a joint effort.
“I don’t want to say it was kudos to me; everything just worked in our favour. The coach (Lazare Adiengono) was good, and there was good chemistry among the players,” said Mavomo. 

Angola’s best challenge Mavomo

In light of Petro’s success and the innovation brought by Mavomo, the management of Angola’s national team did not waste time and hired him. He had arrived, but he knew he had to keep his feet on the ground, as working with stars like Carlos Morais, Olimpio Cipriano, and Leonel Paulo would be no cakewalk.

“When I think about it, it’s still a dream. I still remember the time I knocked on the doors of Primero de Agosto and Petro. My attitude was, ‘Let me try’,” said Mavomo. “Now doors were opening. I was part of the team as a scout and video coordinator for three years, which was until the 2019 World Cup. I still can’t believe that happened and I am grateful.”

He also reflected on working with some of Angola’s best players. “When you first come to the job, you are a fan. You are like, ‘There is Carlos (Morais), Olimpio (Cipriano) and Leonel (Paulo)’. As you get into it, they look at you as a coach. Now you have to deliver a message. You have to teach, and everything you say has to mean something,” said Mavomo. “These guys are intelligent and will challenge you. So everything you present has to be on point. The honeymoon phase faded on the third day, and I had to give a presentation about our opponents. From there your job is on the line and you have to be professional.”

Mavomo says basketball teams around the continent have since seen the value of having people with similar expertise as he does.

“From the 2017 AfroBasket, not many teams had video coordinators, but the year after, I believe the number grew. Now you see, every team has one. I think Angola helped Africa today,” said Mavomo. “Even at the BAL, teams have video coordinators. The game is growing, and if you don’t have somebody that analyses the game for you, you are two or three steps behind.”

From that time, Mavomo’s reputation has grown. He served under Sacramento Kings coach Mike Brown on the Nigerian men’s team and went to the Tokyo Olympics with the West African country’s women’s side, who led by Otis Hughley.

Emmanuel Mavomo third picture
Emmanuel Mavomo was proud to lead Espoir Fukash during BAL Season 2.

The BAL and serving the DRC

In the debut season (2021) of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), Mavomo, who had already established himself as a coach, was an assistant to Allan Major at Rwanda’s Patriots Basketball Club.

The following season of BAL saw him return home to the DRC and assume the coaching reins at Espoir Fukash. Mavomo says that was a proud moment for him.

“It was the most beautiful thing. When you lead a team from your country, it’s a proud moment. You have made your grandmother proud. Your uncle proud. You have made your country proud,” said the former Democratic Republic of Congo coach.
“We did what we could with what we had, but that moment is one that will never leave you.”

Rodeo with the Austin Spurs

Mavomo, now based in the United States, hit another career milestone. He was recently appointed assistant coach of the G-League’s Austin Spurs. His appointment to the Spurs reunited him with former Angola coach Will Voigt.

While he is happy with the opportunity, he hopes this is another stepping stone to greater things in his career.

“I’m grateful to be here and hope my path inspires many people. But I’m never satisfied. I want to get better. I have known Will for a while. Now we are in a different league,” said Mavomo.

“Our team did not do well last season. We have young players trying to go somewhere with their careers, but you have to remind them that they have to be grounded.

“The time is now to try and get wins for the organisation. While doing that our one of our goals is to develop these players to either become NBA players or good European league players, but most importantly, to be good human beings. I look forward to the challenge and I hope it will be a fun season.” 

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