Toboti aims to make Tuks a force in SA basketball

Tuks determined to make it to a second USSA final

IN a results orientated profession like sports, the focus remains on always winning, meaning matters like development and the wellbeing of players sometimes become secondary. 

The University of Pretoria’s (Tuks) first-team ladies’ basketball coach Kimathi Toboti shares a different perspective. For him, player development and wellbeing are a primary concern and focus. They rank high in Toboti’s priorities as a coach and far outrank any piece of silverware he could win.

“One of the reasons I enjoy coaching at this level is seeing a kid come to an institution and leave a better person. The wins are nice and to see players make it to the national team or become all-stars are good achievements. But more fulfilling is seeing players who could not dribble with their left hand or did not understand help defence become better players,” said Toboti at the University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall, last Thursday.

Toboti, who was speaking after his team practice, wants players under his tutelage to use the opportunity they have to study as way of changing their own circumstances as well. 

“What I want to see is players grow. I want to see players from poor backgrounds arrive here and do courses they like. We must  encourage them to pass,” said Toboti, a former South African women’s national team coach. “I don’t want players to stay here for seven years and leave with a four-year degree. Players must come in, get their degrees and work on changing their own lives and those of their families.

“I don’t want a situation where we hold on to players because we want to win. I want to make sure we grow players. That is my vision.”

Kimathi Toboti
Tuks coach Kimathi Toboti talks strategy during the GUBL tournament. Pictures: The Big Tip Off

While Toboti, who took on the Tuks coaching reins in September 2020, desires for players to better themselves, he also plans on building a basketball program to be reckoned with in the country.

“I want Tuks to be a powerhouse in South African basketball, and that begins with having games. We want to be able to host games and have supporters come and watch us play,” said Toboti. I think that is the first thing. We want to grow basketball in the institution so that we can be a high-performance code. It can only happen when there are spectators at this (Rembrandt Hall) venue and us playing in competitive matches.

“I know people are talking about us, but we are not where we need to be as a program. We won a couple of tournaments last year and made it to a couple of finals this year, but we are not among the top teams in the country. We want to be there, but work needs to be done.”

Toboti, who works in the information technology sector, is no stranger to rebuilding the basketball programs of universities. During his seven-year stay at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, he revitalised that program and alongside Masibulele Ntalie raised the profile of the University of Stellenbosch’s program. So the Tuks ladies program is in good hands and Toboti has enjoyed his time thus far. 

“It’s been nice. The one thing here is there has been no pressure as the team was not winning anything. So, it’s a good thing when you come into a setup where you can build from the beginning. There have been different challenges, but I have enjoyed it,” said the former Stellenbosch University coach.

 

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His tenure with Tuks began on the right note, as he led them to the final of the University Sport South Africa (USSA) tournament last year at the Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha.

The success of last year has increased his team’s appetite for success and Toboti is plotting another return to the final at this year’s USSA tournament, which will see the University of the Witwatersrand play host to the country’s tertiary institutions next month.

“Maybe making the finals in the first year was not a good thing. We have set the bar high, but that is where we see ourselves. The road to the final this year will be tough,” said Toboti. “We might have to face VUT (Vaal University of Technology). They are likely to stand in our way if we get to the last four. If you go to the other side, it is equally difficult, as Wits and UWC (University of the Western Cape) are there, and these are tough match ups.”

Kimathi Toboti
Kimathi Toboti gives the referee an earful during the GUBL tournament.

If last month’s results in the Gauteng University Basketball League (GUBL) tournament are anything to go by, Tuks, who only won two out of their five games will have to work extra hard to rectify their mistakes ahead of the USSA tournament.

“Right now, players are writing exams, and we have a couple of injuries. We started slowly, but we will pick up in the coming days,” said the former Central University of Technology (CUT) coach.

The one area of concern during the GUBL tournament for Tuks, was defence, and during his practice last Thursday, Toboti placed a huge emphasis on that aspect.  

“Defence is one of our strengths. When we needed to pick up our intensity on defence at the GUBL, it unfortunately did not happen for us. It’s what we have been paying attention to in our training,” said Toboti.

Toboti, who is still fine tuning his team has been impressed by the attitude displayed by his players ahead of the USSA tournament. He feels if his players can hold their own end of the deal, they can achieve the desired outcomes.

“If you look at this year’s team, we have six rookies. Four players who made last year’s national team are not here. Of course we want to win. However, we have to be realistic because this year’s and last year team’s are different,” said Toboti. “What I do like about this group is that they want to win. I am not putting pressure on them. All I want is improvement, so it’s about them putting in effort and getting to that goal.”

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