Taukobong aiming for new heights in life and basketball

IN 2020 when the world had come to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reatlegile Taukobong discovered her love for basketball. Hailing from the platinum rich mining town of Rustenburg in the North West Province, South Africa, the multifaceted athlete, has since made huge strides in the sport.

The 16-year-old reflected on the past year and how she has managed to find balance as a student athlete, while pursuing her goals in the game.

Taukobong grew up watching her sister Tlhogi, a player for the 2023 USSA finalists University of Pretoria (UP Tuks), and her father play the sport. So, it was natural that she gravitated towards the game. The grade 10 Fields College pupil, also had to find an alternative way of developing her game as her school does not offer the sport.

Luckily for Taukobong, she found the Kitsong School’s basketball program. The school also plays in the Royal Bafokeng Jr NBA league.

Reatlegile Taukubong second picture
Reatlegile Taukobong flew in to South Africa on the day of the Jr NBA finals. Picture: Supplied

Despite living a significant distance from her team, Taukubong finds a way to practice every day. With the support of her father, who has become her trainer and coach, she is able to put in the necessary work to improve her skills and achieve her goals.

In addition to her basketball talents, Taukobong takes part in netball as well as athletics. She competes in the 100m, 200m, long jump, high jump, shot put as well as discus. These disciplines have helped improve her speed, acceleration, explosive power, coordination, strength, balance, and mental toughness, which are essential for success in basketball.

In a Q&A with The Big Tip Off, she reflected on her glowing achievements and where she sees herself in life and basketball.

The BTO: You were invited to the NBA Academy Women’s camp as well as the NBA Academy Games. How did you experience that entire process?

RT: The [NBA Academy Women’s] camp was really good. We had several WNBA players at the camp who coached us every day. I learned a lot and made friends from different parts of the world. It was one of the best things ever. They scout and pick the best players from all over the world.

The BTO: You were chosen to take part in the NBA Academy Games. How did you find the experience?

RT: I went to the NBA Academy Games in Atlanta in July. Players from all over the world competed against each other. There were four players from Africa, including myself, and everyone else was from other countries.

 

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The BTO: How did you experience the scouting process?

RT: I was scouted at the games I played at the RBS program. The scouts do a good job of watching all the games. If you’re a great player, you’ll get the opportunity you deserve, whether it’s going to camps or getting scholarships. You just have to put in the work.

The BTO: How do you balance your time with all your sports interests and academics?

RT: Time management! It’s a skill I had to develop. I had to write all my exams in five days before I went to Rwanda. So, I would write a three-hour paper and do double sessions to make sure I wrote all my exams. It’s all about determination, hard work, and planning. Once I planned, everything went accordingly.

The BTO: Have you ever played for South Africa, or is it something you aspire to?

RT: I’ve never played for South Africa. I got into the Gauteng team this year, but the games were at the same time as my trip to Atlanta, so unfortunately, I had to drop the team.

The BTO: Tell us about your experience at the Regional Youth Camp in Rwanda.

RT: We had drill sessions and games in the afternoon and many workshops to help us become better, both on and off the court. I got a selection for the All-Star team. I feel it was a blessing and a step toward what I aim to achieve.

Reatlegile Taukobong's school celebrates JR NBA championship
Reatlegile Taukobong’s team Kitsong School celebrate winning the JR NBA Championship. Picture: Supplied

The BTO: Did you know anyone at the Regional Youth Camp? How did you navigate the language barrier, if there was one?

RT: No, I was the only South African girl there. Most of the people spoke French. They provided interpretation services so that we could communicate better. Basketball brought us together, it’s the same language wherever you go.

The BTO: Just hours after you arrived back from Rwanda, you played in and won the Royal Bafokeng JRNBA finals. Can you talk about the process you went through to get ready for the game?

RT: My flight was at 4pm, and I landed in South Africa at 5:30 am. The drive from the airport to my house is about two hours, so we arrived at 7:30 am. I was tired from the camp and the travel back to South Africa. But I wanted to be there for my team and leave the court with a win. And this is exactly what we did… It was amazing. We’ve been working so hard to win for three years, so it was a huge sigh of relief. I especially want to dedicate the win to our coach, who has been putting in the work. This win was for him.

The BTO: How do you envision yourself in the future?

RT: My goal is to get a scholarship from a school or college in Europe or the USA. I plan to study property development. I also dream of playing in the Euroleague. 

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