Mthiyane still has more to accomplish on the court

MY basketball journey started on St Thomas Road at the prestigious Durban High School (DHS). When I arrived, DHS was ranked the number one basketball school in the country and continued its tradition of dominance of on South African courts.

At the beginning of my grade 8 year, DHS head coach, Letha Zulu, made us aware that it should be an honour to don the blue and gold. We were told tales of the legends that had worn the uniform and how they never let the badge down.

Names like Nhlanhla Dlamini, Stenga Khumalo and Dumisani Gabashe, who have worn national team colours come to mind.

A lot of my peers zoned out during coach Zulu’s talk, but all I could think about was how cool it would be to leave a legacy there. Considering I had not played the sport before, I knew it would take a lot of work to make my hoop dreams come true.

I started with the under-14 D side and only made an A-side when I got to the 10th grade. There was no time to rest on my laurels, I worked out almost every single day. If you were looking for me, the best place to start was the basketball court. Eventually, the work I put in paid off when I made the KwaZulu-Natal team that won the SA Schools championship in 2013 and 2014.

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Manelisi Mthiyane in action during the 2018 USSA basketball tournament at Wits. Pictures: THE BTO

Going forward, I knew that hard work and perseverance would serve me well on and off the court.

Earlier in my matric year, I received a letter from the University of Pretoria that my provisional application to study there had been rejected. Rather than sit in disappointment, I worked harder, improved my results and later was accepted at Tuks for a Bcom Financial Science degree.

My basketball career at Tuks did not start the way I had planned. I was disappointed to start in the second team but kept at it and before the year ended I laced-up for the first team. My time at Tuks also had its speed humps, including getting injured in my second year, which prevented me from competing in many competitions, and facing financial exclusion.

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Manelisi Mthiyane in action for the Mpumalanga Rhinos

The one thing that remained constant throughout the hurdles was the work I put into my books and on the court. The work I put into the game never went unnoticed. I represented my city at the SALGA games for three years in a row and won gold all 3 times. This earned me a basketball bursary, which helped fund the last few years of my degree. I am grateful to the Tuks Basketball organization for the faith they put in me.

Over the years I gave the team and the club everything I had, and have no regrets.

I was fortunate enough to play alongside great players who represented the country. These men became mentors and eventually good friends. I had the opportunity to play for some of the best coaches in South Africa, including Danny Mokwena, Neo Mothiba and George Makena. These men made me a better student of the game and left life lessons that I will carry for the rest of my life.

I don’t know where the game will take me next. However, as I reflect basketball helped me continue my studies and graduate. I experienced playing professionally. And, I have met some amazing people along the way.

I recently got a job, and plan to apply the same work ethic I used in basketball to both my job and business (in the future).

Age is on my side and there are a bunch of things I want to accomplish on the court. Right now, I am grateful to God, my family and basketball for getting me where I am today.

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