Wits Basketball

Mangondo learns to adult during lockdown

Multi-faceted on and off the court

WITS University student and player Nicole Mangondo talks to The Big Tip Off about basketball and how she has been keep playing busy during the lockdown.

BTO: When did you develop your love for basketball?

NM: I began playing in Grade 8, but my love for basketball truly began in my Matric year, 2012.

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

NM: There have been so many role players. It is difficult to pinpoint one individual and to say they were solely responsible for my growth. In short, all my coaches, teammates, officials and competition helped me along the way.

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Nicole Mangondo of Wits (15) believes it’s hard to cheat basketball. Pictures: THE BTO

BTO: What are the strong aspects of your game?

NM: I am a versatile player. Basketball is constantly changing, so I have to adapt to that. In one game, I might be hot on defence and the next in the game, play a supportive role (setting screens and not score at all). I would say the strong aspect of my game, is being versatile. I am willing and able to lead and contribute in numerous ways to the team. You just never know what you will get but you will get something from me.

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

NM: ALL OF THEM! If you are not constantly working on your game, it will show. You cannot hide from any of your shortcomings in basketball. 

BTO: Do you remember your first basketball match? Can you explain what it was like?

NM: No! Honestly speaking when I was in high school, I was still learning the game, going through the motions and playing just for fun. 

BTO: Who is the toughest opponent you have faced in basketball? And why?

NM: Jesu! We have a fair amount of competitive and talented players in South Africa. I’d rather break it down into teams. In high school, it was Rosina Sedibane. At the varsity level, it’s Wits and VUT. At club level, it’s Phoenix. They have players who know how to win. 

BTO: Who in your opinion is the best player in South African basketball?

NM: OMG! There are too many to mention.

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

NM: Fortunate Bosega. She’s dangerous in every way. She can drive to finish. She plays hard defence. She crashes boards. She never gets tired and even if she does, she won’t show it. Even on her worst day, she’ll never give you an excuse. She plays through injuries; she is incredibly disciplined and trains hard. No other player carries herself the way she does. 

BTO: Who is your favourite teammate in basketball? And why?

NM: Sharon Tolo, Rudo Kaseke, Kage Phiri and Lungi. They are honest teammates, but they also believe in me. 

BTO: What was your lowest moment in basketball? And why?

NM: The USSA 2018 and USSA 2019 quarter-finals. My team, Wits took on NW-Vaal and sh** just didn’t work out, on both occasions. I think we underestimated them because during the regular season we beat them. However, come crunch time, we just caught L’s.  

BTO: What was your memorable moment in basketball? And why?

NM: All of coach Mandla Ngema’s practices. They are always mental-emotional-physical sessions that you holistically benefit from. That man is beyond great!

BTO: How have you been keeping busy during the lockdown?

NM: For the first time in my adult life I have not been free. I have been working, working on various things: school, work, business ventures and cooking. I’ve been busy!

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Nicole Mangondo believes there’s always room for players to improve their game.

BTO: What have you missed about being away from the basketball court?

NM: I have the privilege of having access to courts, so I use them. However, I do miss matches and training with my actual full team.

BTO: What are you looking forward to when basketball eventually resumes?

NM: Seeing who has put in work to develop and enhance their skills during this year. 

BTO: Do you remember your first basketball sneakers?

NM: Yes, they were white and pink from the Missy Elliot Adidas Basketball collection, I thought they were the coolest thing to hit the court. 

BTO: Which sneakers are you currently rocking? And why?

NM: Next… 

BTO: Where do you see yourself going with basketball or an alternative career?

NM: Finally launching the Hoop Development Academy, a Pan-African initiative or being a sports agent. Whichever comes first. 

BTO: Who is Nicole off the basketball court?

NM: I guess one would have to take the time to get to know me because I am very multi-faceted.

BTO: What is your favourite sport or life quote:

NM: Life is a rollercoaster. It is meant to be a fully elating experience of highs and lows.

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

NM: Mama. Her voice is always in my head. 

BTO: How would like to be remembered when you are done playing basketball?

NM: A strong player, good teammate and cheerleader of others as they shine.

 

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Starting a basketball revolution for the next generation

I learnt that it is easier to work hard when you are passionate about something

 

MY journey in basketball began with my mom advising me to participate in a sport to keep active. While my mom’s words resonated, I still was not sure which sport to participate in. But the moment arrived when I saw a group of boys practising one morning at Montevideo Primary School in Cape Town, and that is when I fell in love with basketball.

Through the inspiration of seeing others play, my love for basketball grew. The passion and enthusiasm in the faces of those playing the sport brought me closer to finding out what the big deal was about bouncing a basketball. Throughout my years of playing, the root of my love for the sport came from the types of relations I built within the basketball community. The kind of energy that was uncommon if the spaces were not of a sporting community.

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Thandiwe Nqanda holds aspirations of becoming a coach. Pictures: Supplied

As a player, I was moulded by Craig Daniels who coaches at Montana Vikings Basketball Club. Coach Craig helped me find my strengths within the sport and gave me an outline of how much the sport relates to life situations that one is likely to encounter. I also grew under the tutelage of Coach Thesline Davids at u12 level, I was probably nine-years-old at the time. Davids, as a coach enhanced my love for basketball, as her approach to it was filled with a lot of compassion and she made the game congenial.

Throughout my years of playing, there have been other coaches who have contributed to the player I am today; Coach Sbusiso Williams, Coach Letha Zulu, Coach Manyani Maseko, Coach Willie Matlakala, Coach Mandla Ngema, Coach Kimathi Toboti and Coach Nompumelelo Ramatsoga.

Encountering the different coaches and learning from them contributed to one of the highlights on my basketball journey, which was being selected for the U16 National Team. It was a dream come true for me, earning the opportunity to represent the country and that encouraged me to work harder. From this, I learnt that it is easier to work hard when you are passionate about something, but more so, that particular passion granted me a greater opportunity. As much as this experience was one of my greatest, it was one of my worst at the same time, as the same opportunity was taken away. And it was from this moment I realised that women are neglected in basketball.

Thandiwe Nqanda encourages to use resources currently available to help grow basketball.

I see myself having a long-term career in coaching. I have already started the process at King Edward VII High School (KES) since 2019. I also want to find other ways of giving back to basketball. I believe that we should always aspire to ensure that there is a particular revolution at hand for the next generation.

To add, I am an aspiring psychologist and are working my way into being a published author as I am currently paving my path into the writing industry.

My last words are dedicated to the women who hold this basketball community together in so many ways. It is up to us to ensure that we firstly work with the little we have. It is up to us to encourage, host, develop and actively assist the next generation so that when South Africa decides to grant women a chance to compete, the opportunity finds us ready. I salute all the women taking up space to advance basketball.

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Making the right moves on and off the court

“Little did I know I was about to begin a beautiful journey”

FROM a young age, I was profoundly aware that who a person chooses to associate with, influences the way they lead their life, the people, places and things they are exposed to. With that knowledge, I could navigate my way through life with a certain amount of decent discretion in the choices that I made. Although I did not understand the depth of it then as I do now, it put me in a position to be in the right place, at the right time and with the right people.

How I got to be in the world of basketball is no different. In 7th grade, one Friday afternoon my friend, Oratile Nkwana told me that he was going for basketball practice. I must say, I was slightly irritated because it meant that I was going to walk home alone on that day. So, instead of journeying home alone, I decided to go and watch the practice while I waited for him. As we entered the courts, there we so many basketballs and many were in the air as everyone was shooting. It was loud and everyone looked like they were having fun.

Ipeleng Nyatlo believes making the right choices and good mentorship saved her from a lot of trouble. PICTURES: THE BTO

Coach Junior Mmoloke, one of the positive influences I have had as a player, took on the warm-up responsibilities that day. He made the practice so fun that I ended up joining. In my mind, I was just trying to keep fit as athletics season was over and I didn’t have any specific sport occupying my time after school. Little did I know I was about to begin a beautiful journey. I am glad I was friends with Oratile then because, through him, I was exposed to basketball.

At that time, I was a pupil at Matale Middle School in Rustenburg and Kgolagano Rakhudu was our school’s coach. Looking back to the time I spent around him made me realise how much of a mentor he was to me and his teachings saved me from a lot of trouble. There is a park right next to the stadium where most students would chill after school. Most of the time, I wished I could also ‘hang out’ because it seemed like the popular thing to do. Coach would always say, “don’t try to be like them when they want to be like you.” I now understand that deep down those students also wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves, but were maybe not brave enough to risk not being part of the ‘cool crowd’.

My coach’s investment in himself was evident in our growth as basketball players. In 2013, both the girls and boys team won the middle school division championship and our girls team also played for the provincial team. In the same year, the girl’s all-star team from the Royal Bafokeng Jr NBA program got an opportunity to compete in a provincial tournament. Before that, it used to be only the boys who would compete in tournaments outside the province.

Fast forward to varsity basketball, I realised how much the politics of gender influenced access and opportunities to basketball.  Men are the only ones who played in the inaugural Varsity Basketball tournament. Women are still waiting for a Women’s Basketball National League. Generally, women in sports get fewer opportunities than men. However, I am glad that the necessary conversations are being sparked and hopefully will continue to be systematically addressed. It is still a journey ahead of us on this matter.

Dreaming Big
Ipeleng Nyato dreams of giving back to basketball.

Overall, I would say participating in basketball has been a blessing. I’ve played for the provincial and national team, and participated in the global Basketball Without Borders camp, just to name of a few of my career highlights. Currently, I am on scholarship and pursuing my studies towards a Bachelor of Accounting Science degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. A lot has been in invested in me and I hope to repay that faith by giving back to basketball.

I want the next generation to experience playing internationally and to know that what they see in the country is not all there is to basketball. Since work ethic cannot be coached, I believe it can be ignited in the players once they get a glimpse of what their peers are doing in other parts of the world. I’m excited for them and the growth of the sport in general.

I believe it is the responsibility of those who know better, mostly the coaches, to continue equipping themselves to put the sport at the level it needs to be. Because the growth of basketball is directly proportional to the investment the coaches are willing to make in themselves, for the benefit of the players.

Of course, the whole basketball community is required for the growth of basketball. I believe we have to consistently focus on doing the right thing. And in this, we have to keep the interests of the sport at heart, on and off the court. Only then, will other stakeholders be interested in investing their resources in the sport.

The future belongs to those that prepare for it. We have to continue doing our part and everything else will fall into place.

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Risto engineering for success on the court

EVARISTO Pasipamire or simply ‘Risto’ is known for his ferocious dunks and athleticism on the court. The Big Tip Off caught up with him for a Q&A interview to find out more about his basketball journey.

Q: When did your love for basketball begin?

A: I started playing basketball right after high school in 2014 with the Cameo Basketball Club in Zimbabwe. I was actually a volleyball player in secondary school. 

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

A: Eric Banda and Tawanda Chitsinde. These were the guys who taught me the fundamentals and gave me a better understanding of the game.

Q: You are known for explosive dunks; do you remember the first time you dunked?

A: The first time I dunked was in 2015. I was playing for Cameo in a match against JBC … That was one of the derbies in the Zimbabwe league. I enjoyed the love I got and how the fans went crazy.

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Everisto Pasipamire has aspirations for playing in the BAL and pursuing a career in Europe. Pictures: THE BTO

Q: What was your favourite in-game dunk? Where was it and why does it stand out for you?

A: My best dunk came during the 2018 USSA men’s final, when my team, Wits took on VUT: the hype, the mixed emotions at that moment from myself, my teammates and the fans. It’s hard to explain. It was a great game. We thought we were going to win at that point, but unfortunately, we lost that final.

Q: Apart from dunking, can you point out, which other aspects of your game are strong?

A: I am athletic. I can run down the floor better than some guys my size. I pass the ball well and I have a good shooting percentage, which I’ve been working on for the past few years.

Q: Can you reflect on the first time you received your first senior Zimbabwe national team call-up? And what did that call-up mean to you?

A: My national team breakthrough came in 2015 during the Afrobasket qualifiers in Bulawayo, where I helped Zimbabwe to qualify for its first tournament. As a rookie, I had so many minutes and made crucial plays. Although my selection was criticised by many, I didn’t care! I had to do what I had to do and things went well.

Q: Which is the toughest team you played against internationally? And why?

A: The toughest team I have faced was Egypt in 2015. They were ahead of us by far, in terms of talent, and decision-making and most of their guys were professionals.

Q: Who is the toughest player you have faced internationally and locally? And why?

A: It has to be Tsakani Ngobeni. I played against him in the 2015 and 2017 Afrobasket qualifiers. His inside and outside game differentiate him from many and he is very hard to guard.

Q: Who is your favourite teammate locally or internationally? And why?

A: Tatenda Maturure aka “Dummy”. He’s the most naturally talented athlete I’ve seen in my career and delivers when you need sh** to be done.

Q: Who is your all-time favourite player? And why?

A: Lebron James. His skill, athleticism and size are a great combination. And purely on what he has done for the game of basketball on and off the court. 

Q: You have also furthered your basketball career here in South Africa and played at various levels (Basketball National League, Johannesburg Basketball League and Varsity Basketball). Can you reflect on your time playing here in South Africa?

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When he is not causing havoc in the paint Everisto Pasipamire enjoys hanging with friends.

A: Well, the goal was to always play professionally and fortunately basketball got me this far (SA). I received a scholarship from Wits University and managed to further my studies in engineering, which I am passionate about.

Q: Where do you see your basketball progressing, internationally and locally?

A: I just want to finish my studies for now, so that I can have options. When it comes to basketball, the BAL is a game changer on this continent, so it’s good to keep an eye out for that, and Europe has a good basketball scene. I am excited to explore the opportunities as they come.

Q: If you were not a basketball player what would you be doing?

A: I think I would be playing volleyball ?

Q: How have you been keeping busy during the lockdown period?

A: Well, I have been focused on my studies, working out ??, chilling, and watching movies. 

Q: Outside of basketball, who are the positive influences in your life?

A: It’s my mom who is based in Bindura, Zimbabwe. 

Q: What are your hobbies?  

A: I enjoy watching documentaries a lot and listening to music.

Q: What is your favourite quote? And why?

A: I hear my mom and friends say ‘I am special’, but I still don’t get it. Basketball and engineering will bring that out, I guess! 

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