Florsheim Ngwenya

Tigers shock Petro and give themselves a lifeline

SATURDAY’S sold-out match at Sun Bet Arena saw the Cape Town Tigers secure their first Kalahari Conference win after defeating Petro de Luanda 84-78.

The Tigers started the Basketball Africa League encounter with a high level of aggression – which was unusual for them. They were able to match the intensity of Petro in the paint and reduce their turnovers. The Tigers played as a team, shared the ball, and the result saw them lead every quarter for the first time in the tournament.

Cartier Diarra led all scorers in the first half, scoring 12 points and dishing out five assists. Storm Gilchrist shook off his rookie title and made major contributions at both ends of the floor before he sustained an injury.

During the post-match presser, Tigers coach Florsheim Ngwenya noted Gilchrist’s injury as an ankle sprain. In the end, Billy Preston’s 11-point second-half performance sealed the deal for the Tigers.

Ngwenya credited his team’s level of concentration until the final buzzer sounded. “This shows that with the proper preparation, we give ourselves a chance to hang with the best of them,” said the Tigers coach.

Storm Gilchrist injury
Storm Gilchrist clutches his left ankle after injury during the match against Petro. Pictures: The BTO

Dylan Whitbred, who had a 12-point performance off the bench, acknowledged the fans for cheering the team on against the memorable victory against Petro.

“Having the fans here is an incredible experience. I try to tell the guys and remind everyone who comes to watch me play that it is an absolute pleasure to have them in the arena. I do not take that for granted,” said Whitbred. “So we come out with a lot of heart and played for the fans… Because it’s all about them. I am glad we were able to pull out this win.”

Petro de Luanda has had a difficult season, and the outcome of their final conference game reflects this. José Neto, the coach, expressed dissatisfaction with the team’s performance, stating they did not play to their usual standard.

“The team isn’t here. The players are but Petro isn’t here,” says Neto. “Throughout the tournament, different players have stood out but we didn’t play together as a team and that is a surprise to me too.”

Last night’s game was no different. Neto, who took responsibility for the two losses, pointed out that despite the game’s statistics, he believed the Tigers wanted it more.

“The game is not about numbers, it is about who is hungrier and Cape Town [Tigers] were hungrier than us,” said Neto. “The Tigers played well enough to win. The numbers are not that different to me but they had more spirit.”

Petro had many moments where they looked like a shell of themselves and struggled from the three – which has historically been a strong suit of theirs. They were also out-rebounded (50/45).

“We didn’t respect the Tigers enough to show up and do what needed to be done and the results show that,” said Neto.

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Where to now for the Cape Town Tigers?

FLORSHEIM Ngwenya gave an honest and brutal assessment of things at the Cape Town Tigers following a third straight loss in their Basketball Africa League Kalahari Conference campaign.

The Tigers found themselves wanting in the game against the Moroccan club, FUS Rabat and succumbed to an 84-58 loss.

Cracks showing in the Tigers Camp 

As things stand for the Tigers, their chances of making the playoffs in Kigali hang in the balance. Ngwenya apologized to the South African fans for their underwhelming performance so far. 

“First of all, I’d like to apologize to the fans and South Africa in general who have paid their money to come watch us play. I think we didn’t do justice to all of those people,” said Ngwenya during a post match conference. 

Billy Preston in action
Billy Preston’s talent is undeniable, but his attitude has often been criticised. Pictures: The BTO

The Tigers did not look like a cohesive unit and struggled to find open shots, play defence, and pass the ball effectively. Ngwenya believes that Rabat was the better team on the night. 

Coach Ngwenya criticized his team for a lack of effort, stating that it was also out of their control, hinting at their inadequate preparation leading up to the Kalahari Conference. 

“It was not an ideal situation. We only had two weeks of preparation compared to guys who have had six to seven months of preparation. As the saying goes ‘Ball don’t lie’ and it showed,” said Ngwenya. 

Tigers had eleven assists as opposed to FUS, who had twenty-six assists. The team also accumulated twenty turnovers to add to their woes. 

The cracks in the team dynamic started to show when Billy Preston Jr had a back-and-forth in the first half with team owner Raphael Edwards. The talented, but individualistic Preston seemed to have ignored team instructions, which led to his substitution. He would eventually sit out for the rest of the game.

Preston is not new to the team, having played in the second season of the BAL with the Tigers in 2022.

His return to the Tigers was meant to provide them with some much-needed firepower for the BAL, but this seems short-lived. Also, if Ngwenya’s words are anything to go by, Preston could be out of the team.

“Once you check out on us, we find somebody to replace you. I don’t care who you are, but you can’t check out on your team right in the middle of a war,” added Coach Ngwenya.  

The Tigers coach lamented the constant roster changes, which over time have affected the team’s preparations for the BAL. 

“These things are not up to me. I’m just a basketball coach. I’m here to put X’s and O’s. I have no control over what happens in the boardroom,” added Coach Ngwenya.

 

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FUS Rabat continuing with dominance 

Speaking about their approach to the game with the Tigers, FUS head coach, Said El Bouzidi said the win came because of their unity and work in the paint. 

“We tried to shoot like the team from Angola (Petro de Luanda), but we are not as good a shooting team as them. When we started to play like a unit and work in the paint, we were successful. The stats showed how efficient we were in the paint,” said coach El Bouzidi. The Moroccans dominated and scored 68 points in the paint. Aliou Diarra led the scoring for FUS with 21 points and was 10/11 in field goals. 

Verdict

While FUS are looking good for a run at the playoffs, the Tigers are in need of deep soul-searching.

Where to now for the Cape Town Tigers? Read More »

Ngwenya confident Tigers will fly SA flag in Kalahari Conference

FLORSHEIM Ngwenya has been a busy coach. After his recent travails with the national team, he has this week to put the finishing touches to the Cape Town Tigers ahead of a momentous occasion in South African basketball.

The Tigers, last year’s BNL champions, will welcome four teams to the newly minted Kalahari Conference of the young Basketball Africa League (BAL), tipping off at the SunBet Arena in Pretoria (March 9 – 17).

After seeing South Africa, disappointingly lose out to Mozambique in the AfroBasket pre-qualifiers late last month in Maputo, the Tigers coach maintained an upbeat mood as Season 4 of the 12-team BAL is a few sleeps away.

In his usually collected demeanour during interviews, Ngwenya felt confident his team is ready for the inaugural Kalahari Conference.

“I am excited. The (AfroBasket) pre-qualifiers were a jumpstart to the basketball season. Now we are ready to roll with the BAL,” said Ngwenya, who spoke at his team’s media day on Friday at the Mandeville Sports Complex in Johannesburg. “Most of these guys were part of the team in the pre-qualifiers, so we are ready.”

Florsheim Ngwenya at Tigers practice
Florsheim Ngwenya says the AfroBasket qualifiers helped jumpstart the Tigers’ season. Pictures: The BTO

Looking back at the short trip to Mozambique, Ngwenya intimated the importance of representing the country. And regardless of the circumstances, the experienced coach says leading the national team is always an honour.

“It felt good. Anytime you represent your country, it’s a privilege. Whether you have a month or two days to prepare, the bottom line is that you are representing the country. Wearing the flag, so you got to take pride in that,” said Ngwenya. It’s been seven years since the country last competed. It was a good outing for the guys. I think it was unfortunate we did not win the whole thing, but it’s a start of good things to come.”

The focus is now on the BAL, and Ngwenya is impressed with how things are taking shape within the team. He also reminded the players that they are doing duty for the country.

“Today (Friday) is for media, but we have put in the hard yards. The players are looking sharp. It’s up to them now to fly the country’s flag higher,” said the former Egoli Magic coach. We will play strong opposition, but we are home. It should count for something.

“With the new format as well… Playing each team twice, you can afford to win one here and lose one there. You can always go back the drawing board and make adjustments for the next game.”

 

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The Tigers have also made some player moves, with Billy Preston returning to the team. Cartier Diarra, who played for the Tigers in last year’s Road To BAL Elite 16, is also back. South Sudan’s Ngor Manyang has also been roped in for the Tigers’ BAL cause.

Ngwenya took a pragmatic tone on the player movement.

“The roster will always change because players get offers from elsewhere or we get better players than what we have. That is the nature of the business,” said Ngwenya. “We are getting the new guys up to speed on how we play. Luckily, we have smart players who pick up things quickly. So it bodes well for us.”

Of the local contingent, one of the additions made to the Tigers roster is centre Storm Gilchrist. The teenage centre, the son of the legendary Craig Gilchrist, debuted for the national team in Mozambique, and he has a chance to experience the BAL.

Ngwenya says Gilchrist’s inclusion to the Tigers will benefit South Africa.

“Him (Gilchrist) being here is great for the country. It’s great for basketball. It tells young players, ‘If you put in the work, you will get the reward’,” said Ngwenya. “He just needs to do what he does best. Make his mistakes and we correct them. It is part of his growth.”

Florsheim Ngwenya
Florsheim Ngwenya says South Africa’s basketball structures need to be organised for the country’s game to move forward.

Ngwenya also spoke on the growth benefits of South Africa getting to host the Kalahari Conference leg of the BAL.

“This speaks volumes about what we can do as a host country. We have hosted the rugby, football, cricket and netball World Cups,” said Ngwenya. “It says to basketball people in South Africa, ‘If we put in the work to make all our structures functional, then good things will happen.

“It’s also great for our fans. They have a chance to see us play at home. Any kid or fan can see us play here than to watch us on TV play away.”

As Ngwenya and the Tigers await Petro de Luanda, FUS Rabat, and Dynamo BBC, they will hope fans come in their numbers to witness a grand milestone in South African basketball.

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Can Cape Town Tigers roar into contention for BAL title?

THE Cape Town Tigers are a young club on the African basketball scene. They head to Season 4 of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) as hosts of the Kalahari Conference, where they hope to improve on their past performances. The Big Tip Off previews the South African team ahead of the BAL.

Team: Cape Town Tigers

Country: South Africa

History: The Tigers are one of South Africa’s youngest clubs. Founded in 2019, the team has garnered much attention for its success in the past four years. They will be making their third appearance in the BAL.

The Tigers have won two South African National titles, one Basketball National League (BNL) title and two Road to BAL Division East Championships.

Florsheim Ngwenya
Tigers coach Florsheim Ngwenya is a proven winner and is well-versed in international basketball. Pictures: FIBA

The South African side has had its fair share of stars adorn their roster, with most recently having former OKC Thunder player Josh Hall and Zaire Wade, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade, suited up for them in Season 3 of the BAL.

But the Tigers have not managed to get past the quarter-finals in their two BAL appearances. Can the third attempt be the charm for them?

The Tigers secured their spot in Season 4 of the BAL through Road to BAL. The South African Champions went undefeated in the tournament and defeated the Oilers in the final game.

Coach: South African coach Florsheim Ngwenya will lead the Tigers in their quest to become a title contender in their third BAL appearance. The experienced Ngwenya previously led the South African National team from 2007 to 2011 as head coach.

He has also won multiple BNL titles as the Head Coach of the Egoli Magic club, making him the most successful coach in BNL history. Ngwenya led the Tigers to two Division East Road to BAL Championships and one BNL title.

Star Player: Samkelo Cele is a standout player on the South African team. As a small forward and guard, his athleticism and high motor impact both ends of the court. He can quickly shift the game’s momentum in favour of the Tigers.

Despite coming off the bench, Cele leads the team in most statistical categories. Cele has averaged 13 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game during the Road to BAL. He was among the best defenders in Season 3 of the BAL and earned a place in the League’s All-Defensive Team.

 

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Florsheim Ngwenya: The right fit for the Tigers’ BAL ambition

The Tigers look forward to Petro challenge

WHY the name Florsheim? Reflecting on the question, Cape Town Tigers coach Florsheim Ngwenya at first did not have a definite answer as to why his late father named him after the classic American shoe.

“You are going to have to ask my father that question. I don’t know,” said Ngwenya, who gave a light-hearted chuckle during his post-practice interview with The Big Tip Off at Mandeville last Friday. “You won’t get an answer now as he is no more.”

When pressed for an answer, Ngwenya, who goes by Florsh, then gave the question some thought. He recalled his father’s sense of fashion.

“He was a fashion icon. The man loved clothes and shoes. Especially the Florsheims. He had about six or seven pairs of those shoes. So I kind of understand why he gave me the name,” said Ngwenya, who took on the Tigers coaching job in early August. He also led them to a second national club title later that month.

Image two
Florsheim Ngwenya, in white, believes the Tigers are a more united team.  Pictures: The BTO

On game days, Ngwenya himself is a sharp dresser, as witnessed at the national championships, where he wore fine cut shirts and pants during the three day tournament. But as he prepares his team for the Elite 16 tournament (22-27 November), Ngwenya is probably making little fuss about his sense of style as he has the pressing issue of guiding the Cape side to a second Basketball Africa League (BAL) appearance.

So far, Ngwenya likes the way his team is taking shape ahead of the Elite 16 tournament that will take place in Johannesburg. He also appreciates the opportunity to again be on the side-lines and giving out instructions to players. The fact that it is at the international level put Ngwenya on a nostalgic train.

“It’s been interesting. It takes me back to when I used to coach the national team. Guys from different parts of the country and from overseas came together for one mission,” said the former South African national team coach. “The only difference now is that it’s at club level. We have made a few changes to the team. We have added two new guys. Dhieu Deing and Raphiael Putney have come on board. They have brought their game and personalities into the mix, and it’s been going well. The camaraderie in the team is pretty good. There is a bit more of a brotherhood compared to what I observed as an outsider last year. Everyone has been putting in the work.”

On a positive note the Tigers have played four exhibition games and won all of them. They defeated the University of Johannesburg, MBB, Mozambican club Maxaquene and the NBA Academy. On Saturday, they will again take on the NBA Academy and then welcome (18-28 October) two-time FIBA African Club Championship winners and Angolan giants Petro Atletico.

“There is always an improvement in each practice and game that we play. Of course there is always room to get better. For me, I see an improvement in the brotherhood. The guys understand what it takes to win at this level. They have experienced this level of basketball and know how difficult it is to win international games,” said the veteran coach. “So there is a lot more hard work that needs to be put in. We have to worked hard in our practices and in games because there are short and long term goals that we have set for ourselves. So far we have checked a couple of boxes.”

Florsheim Ngwenya
Florsheim Ngwenya is happy to be coaching at the international level again.

The Tigers are aware of the challenge posed by Petro. After all the Cape side lost to the Angolans in their debut season of the BAL. Ngwenya also welcomes the duel against the Southern African club, as it will provide a yardstick with which to measure themselves.

“They are a tough team. They were semi-finalists in the first edition of the BAL, and this year, they made it to the final. We are going to face a strong team. Petro have a great history, and on the court, they are a relentless team,” said Ngwenya, who noted the roster upgrade made by the Tricolors at the guard position. “They have signed Solo Diabate, who won titles with Zamalek and US Monastir. That is going to be a tough test and one we look forward to.”

 

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The Tigers are yet to bounce a ball in the Elite 16 tournament, but Ngwenya has high hope of winning the BAL tournament with this Tigers group.

“We want to win this whole thing. To do that, we have to go through the best, and they (Petro) will give us a nice challenge,” said Ngwenya, who has won multiple Basketball National League (BNL) titles with the Magic.

In the upcoming Elite 16 the Tigers, Mozambique’s Ferroviario da Beira and South Sudan’s Cobra await five other teams. Ngwenya acknowledged it will not be an easy ride for the Tigers, but hopes playing in South Africa will benefit the Cape side.

“Clubs from different countries will be coming to South Africa. What is nice is that we are playing in Johannesburg. So we will have home court advantage, and hopefully fans will come in numbers to support us,” said Ngwenya.

Ngwenya fits the bill in terms of international experience, and championship pedigree. He also shares the Tigers’ dream of continental dominance. Come November the camaraderie he says has been built will be tested by clubs with similar ambition.

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