Vincent Ntunja: More than a basketball player

BEING an athlete means attention is drawn to you and while some in the sports arena bask in that limelight, others use their platform as a vehicle for social activism. Western Cape Mountaineers captain and point guard Vincent Ntunja fulfils the latter criteria.

Ntunja’s basketball career has earned him national team colours. It has led to him meeting arguably, the game’s greatest player, Michael Jordan at his training camp. These are milestones the Gugulethu-born player does not take lightly.

Ntunja, a director of non-profit organisation, African Grassroots Hoops, has used his privileged position to help children with special needs learn how to play basketball; and to highlight the issue of gender-based violence in the country, a problem the Mountaineers captain believes basketball should not be immune from.

“I have played junior national team basketball and participated in two Afrobasket competitions. I have travelled the world and met Michael Jordan. These are things I don’t take for granted. It’s no use bragging about a court being named after me and my other achievements, if I don’t use them to impact my teammates and my community,” said Ntunja after his team’s win over the North West Eagles at the Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg, last Saturday.

“One of my passions is grassroots development. I coach behaviourally challenged kids to play basketball and help them to become leaders. I also coach girls and have discussions with them about what it means to be a female in our country. If you have followed the news, you will have seen the stories about gender-based violence happening in the country. As a basketball community, we have to ask ourselves what we can do to be part of the solution” said Ntunja, who also works as a model and radio host.

Vincent Ntunja in action for the Mountaineers in the BNL. Picture: The BTO

Rather than talk about the critical issues on social media, Ntunja believes it is best to be active in addressing these matters of importance, something he does daily.

The 38-year-old Ntunja stressed that his work is geared towards helping young people avoid the social trappings of life.

“I am not one to write on social media platforms for the likes and comments and then think that I have done something. I am in the office from Monday to Friday, planning and thinking about impact and how to get more involved in schools. We are trying to help develop a new mentality, where we tell kids they don’t have to be gangsters to be successful or stand on the street corners and think that makes them cool. They don’t have to chase Maseratis. Take the long route!” said Ntunja.

The former Cape Peninsula University of Technology student explained his life’s mantra and how he uses it to help young people.

“I always instil the three basic D’s of success: dedication, determination and discipline in the young minds I mentor so one day when I am not here, the legacy continues,” said Ntunja who holds a Masters in Sports Tourism.


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On the court, Ntunja’s team sits second on the log, but their aim is a top four finish in this season’s BNL. With a 5-2 record after their 66-63 victory over the Eagles, the Mountaineers still have some work to do before sealing their spot.

“We do have talent that can lead us to the top four. So far, we are not playing our best basketball, but we are managing to win games. That is a plus for us. Despite the two losses, we have five wins. We are closer to where we want to be,” said Ntunja.

“The captaincy doesn’t start on the court. It starts from Cape Town and how we prepare. Are we arriving on time for flights? Are we sleeping early the night before games? Do we take care of our bodies? Because it will all show on the court. Those are very important things. Drawing from my experience, I believe this is how we best prepare to reach our goal,” concluded Ntunja.

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