Jozi Nuggets

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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Basketball allows me to express myself authentically

“Basketball has a special place in my heart, but it has its challenges”

I joined basketball at Westerford High School in 2010 where I was fortunate enough to meet Coach Thesline Davids, who soon introduced my best friend, Saphron and I to a whole new world. Basketball was not a popular sport in most high schools in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, so being a part of Montana Vikings Basketball Club exposed us to the ball culture and the community. We would mission to practices at Montevideo primary school in Montana twice a week and force our high school teammates to have morning practices with us. This is where my love and passion for basketball started to develop.

Basketball soon taught me perseverance, discipline and self-confidence. It also blessed me with long-term friendships and mentors. One of my favourite aspects of basketball is the sense of belonging I feel. 

 I played for the University of Cape Town (UCT) from 2015 – 2018 and our team evolved with the help of Coach Matt Skade and driven teammates who made the varsity ball experience that much more memorable and enjoyable. We initiated a women’s internal league and attempted to infiltrate the men’s internal league too. While at varsity, I returned to my high school alma mater to coach the senior girls first team. I must say it was an enjoyable experience working with young and enthusiastic players.

My journey in leadership continued in 2018, when I captained the UCT ladies team and we finished fourth at the University Sports South Africa (USSA) tournament which was a huge achievement us. It also meant the UCT ladies team qualified for the Varsity Cup in 2019. I left all my love, sweat and tears on the court for UCT. 

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Lauren Fredericks grew as a player during her time at UCT. Pictures: THE BTO

My hoop journey led me to Gauteng, where the strong competition and culture is often revered. So, all I wanted was to experience playing basketball in that part of the world. Hence, when I graduated in 2018, I was thrilled to find out I was placed in Gauteng for my community service year. I had the pleasure to join the Jozi Nuggets basketball club and participated in many tournaments with them in 2019. The Nuggets provided me with a space to constantly learn and grow as a player, which I’ll always be grateful for.

Throughout my ball journey, I have been fortunate enough to be coached by skilled and supportive coaches. Coach Matt Skade was the toughest coach I have played for, while I was at UCT. I developed as a player in terms of basketball skill and leadership. My mother, a constant reassuring figure, often watched my ball games and provided the many needed pep talks after bad games. Another positive influence is Lungile Mtsweni. Her drive, passion, commitment to her faith and basketball always stayed with me. I remember watching her play in high school and saying to myself, I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Basketball for me has been a blessing and a privilege. It’s a platform that allows me to express myself authentically. It has been a privilege to learn and play with strong women who are mothers, doctors, engineers, academics, scientists and more. These women have taught me that there is no limit to what you can do on and off the court.

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Lauren Fredericks joined the Jozi Nuggets to get a feel of the competitive nature of Gauteng basketball.

Currently, I am pursuing my Master’s degree in Audiology at the University of Pretoria while practising as an audiologist in the public health sector. Basketball taught me teamwork. Thus, working in a hospital setting and a multi-disciplinary team came easy.

Basketball has a special place in my heart, but it has its major challenges. These challenges include the lack of a national ladies’ team and a professional league as well as the overall attitude towards women in basketball. We are neither seen nor treated as equals in the decisions that involve and affect us on and off the court. 

The state of women’s basketball in South Africa needs consistent support from all of us, and especially our male counterparts. 

The root of the problem is that there is no female representation in the decision-making and management of Basketball South Africa. What is needed is a women’s Basketball Association. Female representation is required for advocacy, to voice women’s issues and to empower young girls to continue playing basketball. The development of a National Women’s Basketball Association would ensure this happens. However, what we can do right now to contribute to change is take up space in conversations on basketball, and avail ourselves, as women, for positions in the committees that govern basketball in South Africa.

 

 

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Sibanyoni: I will always love and appreciate my teammates

Basketball went from unusual to an awesome experience for Sibanyoni

NKOSINATHI Sibanyoni of the Jozi Nuggets and former Mpumalanga Rhinos player opens up to  The Big Tip Off  about his experience in the Basketball National League (BNL) with the Rhinos and what his future plans are.

BTO: When did you develop your love for basketball?

NS: 2012.

BTO: Who were the role players in your development as a basketball player?

NS: Tim Duncan.

BTO: What are the strong aspects of your games?

NS: Rebounding and scoring.

BTO: What aspects of your game do you think need work?

NS: Dribbling and shooting.

BTO: Do you remember the first time you played in a basketball match? Can you describe it?

NS: It was unusual, because I was not sure what I was doing and not fully aware of the rules. But it was awesome!

BTO: Who is the toughest player you have faced on the basketball court? And why?

Jozi Nuggets player Nathi Sibanyoni
Jozi Nuggets player Nkosinathi Sibanyoni has aspirations to play for South Africa’s national team. PICTURE: THE BTO

NS: Neo Mothiba. He has been around for a long time. I have played alongside him and in my opinion, he works harder than half the players in the country. 

BTO: What has been the biggest achievement of your basketball career so far? And why?

NS: Playing live on TV and playing for the best team in the country, Jozi Nuggets. Playing with guys that I used to watch play before I got to their playing level is a joy.

BTO: Your Mpumalanga Rhinos teammates staged a walkout after you were not allowed to play in the semi-final against the Soweto Panthers in last year’s Basketball National League (BNL) season. Can you explain what happened?

NS: It all began when Rhinos team manager Edwin Mononyane delayed in handing me a clearance letter, which would have allowed me to compete for the Jozi Nuggets in the Basketball Africa League qualifiers. Since I did not get the clearance letter, I thought I could resume playing for the Rhinos. On the day of the semi-finals, Mononyane claimed that he had issued my clearance letter and I had been de-registered from the league. My teammates got knowledge of what was going on and decided that if I was not allowed to play, they would also not play. Surprisingly, it started with the team coach, Tutu Gama and everyone else followed his lead.

BTO: How did you feel when your teammates stood with you and decided not to play in that semi-final?

NS: Somehow, I felt like I cost everyone an opportunity of potentially playing and winning a championship. Then I realised my team was willing to take a bullet for me, which confirmed that our brotherhood was strong. 

BTO: Do you still want to play in the BNL and will you still be a Rhinos player?

NS:Yes, but only  if it’s a good offer. And certainly not with the Rhinos. Not after my experience with the team manager, last year! 

BTO: Do you have a message for your Rhinos teammates for standing with you?

NS: I appreciate what they did for me. I don’t think I will forget that. I will always love and appreciate them.

BTO: You played in the JBL final against the Phoenix Flames. What do you think went wrong for the Jozi Nuggets in that game?

NS:  I think we didn’t show enough hunger. We didn’t play our game. Maybe it was because of pressure or competition.

BTO: Do you remember your first basketball sneakers?

NS: And1 sneakers.

BTO: Which sneakers are you currently rocking?

NS: Under Armour.

BTO: What would you be doing if you were not a basketball player?

NS: Probably playing soccer. Pursuing my dream of being a lawyer or businessman.

Nkosinathi Sibanyoni
Nkosinathi Sibanyoni wants to suit up for different BNL franchise

BTO: Who is your favourite basketball player? And why?

NS: Russell Westbrook. The energy he has. His hunger. You can tell that this guy has zero limits.

BTO: What are you hoping to achieve in the future as a basketball player and or in an alternative career?

NS: Playing for the national team. Owning a business that will help communities and assist the youth in reaching their goals.

BTO: What is your favourite sport or general quote?

NS: “I am the same person with or without my friends. 10 toes down I need no crowd.”

BTO: Who is the biggest influence in your life outside of basketball?

NS: My mom.

BTO: What are your hobbies?

NS: Reading and drawing.

BTO: What words of encouragement do you have for people during this time of Covid-19?

NS: No one promised us happiness forever. Life has challenged us all and especially during this time of Covid-19. Facing the worst doesn’t mean the end, it means we have to be strong and work together. Faith over fear!

 

 

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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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